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|The Great Divide|
15-The Great Divide
Having just escaped participating in a war crime, which would have killed many innocent lives, the trio fled in the wrong direction and ended up at a canyon Aang knew of, The Great Divide. Here they wound up entangled in a feud between two tribes, eventually settling the dispute and returning to their journey.
It's big, yes. I've got things to say; but I'd rather see what my readers say for this chapter since there's a lot of disdain for the A:TLA series version of this. So; analyze below, if you would. Notice something interesting? Find it just as dreadful? Explain why below.
"I'm fine." Katara mentioned calmly, finally rising to sit at the front edge of the saddle beside Aang. "Let's just move on, and put this behind us." Behind me.
"Sounds good to me." Aang replied thoughtfully, having inquired how she was due to her prior silence. Once she had climbed up beside him at the front of the saddle, he leaned over the front with a smile toward Sokka. "We thought you were going to the dam." Aang exclaimed. "How come you went to the town instead?"
"Let me guess... your instincts told you." Katara added with a smile, still hiding her disdain for what had happened within her.
"Hey, sometimes they're right." Sokka retorted light-heartedly with a shrug.
"Umm, Sokka?" Aang began curiously. She turned to face Aang and noted the humor in his eyes, grinning as she readied for some joke. "You know we're going the wrong way, right?"
Oh, gosh! She held back laughter and simply slipped her eyes shut in a wide smile, turning her beaming face toward the back of her brother's head. "And sometimes they're wrong." He chimed in as he brought Appa around with a tug of the reigns.
"Hey, Sokka? I know you've led us the wrong way and all, but... it's getting late. Maybe we should set down for the night and I'll make some dinner."
"Hm...I could go for that." He replied acceptingly to his sister. "I got us something special too..." Sokka twisted back to smirk mischievously as Appa began his descent. "I borrowed a tent from the Freedom Fighters when I went back for Appa."
After setting down amid rocky soil the trio unpacked Appa's saddlebags. Sokka tossed a patched canvas in a heap atop rocky terrain, sending up a small dust cloud. "Okay. There's our fancy new tent. But we need some food; turns out we just have a little left."
"My turn !" Aang shouted as he leapt from Appa's head and landed deftly upon the barren ground. "I'll find us some snacks for the road."
"Great. I'll set up camp here, Katara you can get firewood so we can cook tonight."
"What's this ?!" Katara snapped, standing upright as she thrust her hands upon her hips. "You're still playing leader ? Last time we listened to you we ended up surrounded by Fire Nation!"
"Hey, who would you rather have as a leader ? Me... or Jet ?" Sokka retorted, setting a stern stare upon her.
...Don't remind me. Jerking her head away from their leader she narrowed her eyes in disdain. "Fine. I'll go get the firewood ; just get the tent up for us."
Could this place possibly have more rocks? She mulled to herself, slightly embarrassed to be walking back with an armful of thin sticks to serve as firewood. I did my best.
Upon coming into view of their campsite the first thing she noticed was a lone tent with numerous patchworks shaking madly. Eh? She continued her approach, lifting an eyebrow as her brother's grunts and shouts caught her ear from inside it.
Out stepped Sokka from its side door. At least it's up...hey, wait. Her eyes drifted to a white canvas, the tarp for the tent, still lying on the ground by his feet. Halting beside the tent, she eyed her brother dubiously. "Um. Aren't you forgetting the tarp?"
He waved his arm up in agreement, a foolish grin slipping over him. "Right, got it." In a single swooping motion, he bent forward and seized the bundle, swung back and slung it headlong through the tent's dark opening with a thump.
He did not just do that! A stern glare fell across her as she corrected his error, casting her eyes to the tent momentarily. "Sokka you're supposed to put the tarp on top of the tent." With a slight tilt of her head and roll of her eyes she further ridiculed him. "You know... so we don't get rained on?"
Sokka held his arms in gesture before him. "Ordinarily you'd be right! But seeing as it's the dry season..." His hands slipped to his hips, finishing with a brief lean toward her. "You're not." Dropping to his knees, he double-checked his knot-work at a lower post. "Besides that tarp makes a pretty warm blanket."
So what? I don't want to wake up soaked and freezing cold just because you're stubborn! "But what if it does rain?"
"What if it doesn't?" He shrugged her off, ignoring her as he returned to his rope. "Then I would've put the tarp up for nothing."
She clenched her teeth together in anger. In a loud grunt of frustration she released her anger with a solid stomp to the ground. "You're infuriating!"
Remaining in his kneel by the tent he glanced toward her with a cocky grin. "Katara why don't you worry about gathering the firewood? Because that kindling's looking pretty sorry."
Jerk. A simple frown overcame her, regarding her brother coldly beneath narrowed eyelids. With the passing of a moment; she exploded. "Well if you don't like my firewood...!" But her mind hit a block at what to emphasize. Fine! Hauling back she threw her kindling loosely in his direction.Sokka cried out in alarm, throwing his arms up defensively. Once her wood had settled he leapt to his feet and bellowed madly. "Fine by me! If you're not gonna do your job..." With a sounding grunt he tore loose the tent's knots so that it collapsed in on itself.
The two faced off one another as Aang approached from her side. "Okay, I got the grub if you guys got the..." In firm disdain, the two spun their backs to one another, wholly ignoring Aang's approach. "Hey, where's the campfire? And what happened to the tent?" Aang questioned in mild surprise.
"Why don't you ask Miss Know-It-All, Queen of the Twigs?"
Ha! And your crumpled tent! She spun back quickly, thrusting her finger toward Sokka's back. "Oh yeah? Well you're Mister Lazy-bum, King of the..." Uh...shoot! Nothing came to her yet again. Following her next best option she knelt and grabbed a twig from the ground and rose to her feet. "...tent!"
Hurling her twig through the air it struck of the side of Sokka's shaved head, just missing his wolf tail. He grabbed his head and shouted in surprise before whipping back to exchange hateful glances as their anger only escalated.
Aang let out a playful laugh at this display, breaking the rising tension. "Okay; listen guys. Harsh words won't solve problems, action will! Why don't you just switch jobs?"
"Sounds good." Katara calmly accepted, turning away as Sokka added "Whatever."
"See that? Settling feuds and making peace." Aang began as she knelt to tend to the tent's bindings. "All in a day's work for the Avatar." Yeah, sure, Aang. This isn't settled. She shot a sidelong glance to her brother as he did the same.
That night in the tent, with its tarp up, she finally conceded to herself that Aang had probably stopped something very bad from happening. She sighed at the notion, lying on her back within her warm sleeping bag. Regardless, she still wasn't happy with Sokka. A bed of rocks beneath the tent jabbed painfully at her back, leading her to scrooch and bump into Aang.
"Having trouble sleeping?" Glancing toward Aang in response, a slight crack through the tent's side door allowed enough moonlight in to illuminate his silhouette and seemingly glowing gray eyes.
"Of course. If only Sokka could have stolen a bigger tent." Her words poured out as spiteful as they had been before.
"Well I am so sorry it doesn't suit you." He called out lying by her feet.
"We're all cramped in here! I mean, three people, one small tent. And we could all likely have had a better night's rest somewhere softer if someone hadn't flown the wrong way."
Aang groaned and threw his arms up, burying his face into the curve of his elbow. "Guys–"
"Oh it's my fault is it?" She heard a soft rustle, likely her brother rolling over to direct his attention toward her. "Think how far we could have gotten if someone hadn't had boyfriend issues!" You jerk!
"–Hey, please–" Aang continued as Sokka cried out in agony, having been kicked square on his forehead by Katara within her bag.
"Don't you even go there!" Her words filled the tent as she shouted, lifting up to face him.
"Why not!?" Sokka shouted vehemently, rubbing at his forehead. "You can dish it out all day, but you can't take it?"
"Agh!" Aang seized his orange tunic and pulled it up over his head, burying his face.
Finally she subdued her rage. Instead, she cast her eyes on the tent's side door, gazing thoughtfully at the white beams of the moon. "This is different." She spoke quietly, attempting to dismiss the topic.
"Oh sure, I know that. This time it's you instead of me and Suki. Or wait a minute...did you kiss him? You did, didn't you?" His tone carried his arrogance, pounding on her relentlessly as he mimicked her nagging on the very same issue.
"Sokka, please." Aang suddenly broke in. "She really is hurt." Kiss him. She mulled over his words, reminiscing just how close she had been with Jet, how she nearly had and had even wished for it. Exhaling softly, her body sagged at the thought. "...did you?" Aang suddenly added incredulously at her silence.
No. But, nearly. I would have. It sure feels like I did. But she didn't voice her thoughts, they were too much, too personal. "Sokka this is different. You didn't fall for Suki only to be played for a fool and be tricked into a plan that would kill hundreds of innocent lives." Only distant crickets sounded outside as she hesitated.
Aang slipped out of his sleeping bag, resting his gleaming eyes feverishly upon her. The thought didn't even cross her mind that he was just as guilty in that plan.
Continuing forward in tears, she finished what weighed her down as calmly as possible. "Men, women, even children...I stood on that cliff and I watched that town disappear beneath the water I gave him. He used me. You don't know how much it hurt to know I was responsible for that, and just how much it hurt to see Jet didn't care to make me hurt that badly. I would never have forgiven myself if you hadn't–" She stammered, her voice failing her, tears streaming down her cheeks. "If you hadn't–" Re-attempting, she met the same trouble, her voice even weaker as she tried to mention Sokka's saving the town.
"I'm sorry." He spoke into her ear as he laid his arms on her shoulders, having already crossed to her side. "You're right. I shouldn't have said that." His words softly echoed in her thoughts. Breaking into tears she thrust herself into her brother's arms, burying her face in his chest as she continued to let her tears free, but silently.
"I thought he hurt you too!" She cried out, muffled against her brother's chest. "I was so afraid that he...that he..." ...killed you! The thought rang shrilly through her mind, but by no means could it clearly reach her lips.
"Ssh. It's okay." A single loud sob broke from her before she contained herself to quiet once more. Throwing her arms around her brother's waist, he rocked her gently in his.
Nearly a minute later she realized a second set of hands lay on her. Aang had come to their side and stared thoughtfully to her. Oh gosh, stop this. She pushed off of Sokka and sat upright, drawing a shaky breath and throwing her braid back behind her. I'm stronger than this. "I'm fine...I'm okay."
It didn't help any. The two pairs of eyes still rest on her. Clearing her throat, she reiterated herself firmly. "I said I'm fine."
"Good. But I think I know just the thing to cheer you up." Aang stated thoughtfully.
Oh? ...you do? "Aang, she didn't like the marble trick before, so I'm pretty sure she won't like it now." Sokka added wittily, grinning as he returned to his sleeping bag. "Anyhow, she says she's fine, she's fine. I know her, she's like that."
Huh? "...like what?" Her words carried a hint of curiosity mixed with a tinge of disbelief. Is he being a jerk again? Aang grunted softly as he slumped over his knees.
Crawling back into his bag Sokka's hand waved overhead dismissively. "Things don't keep you down. You let out how you feel then you're better."
...Okay. I guess that works. She dried her eyes on her sleeve and dug back into her sleeping bag, releasing a final peaceful exhale. "Um..." Aang posed. "So, right. Sleep tight, see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight." She calmly stated, having completely forgotten he had offered cheering her up somehow.
The morning had been great. They ate a fine breakfast, which regrettably had left them with what Aang had foraged the day before, mostly leechi nuts. She had packed up camp while Sokka and Aang cracked jokes with one another regarding the Freedom Fighters, leaving their discussion the night before a distant memory.
Having finished with her packing, she spent the next half hour playing with what she now dubbed her bending water, not to be confused with their drinking water. Snap! The water whip echoed as her arm stretched forward.
"Okay, time for me to show you something awesome." Aang folded up the waterbending scroll she had laid out on a nearby rock.
"Huh? I thought we were going to start heading to the North Pole again. I was just waiting for you guys to get ready." The water she had been manipulating retreated in a single stream back into her water skin, capping it quickly.
"We are. But I still need to show you this. Trust me, you're gonna love it!"
Following him as he paced onward, she kept her eyes down by her feet at his request. What could be so special he wanted to surprise us with it? Honestly, it was working. Her mind had trailed away from the issues she'd felt before, anxious to see what Aang had planned.
"It didn't rain." Sokka muttered under his breath in his simple, usual sarcasm.
What's his poi...oh. Her eyelids fell. "And you didn't need the tarp for a blanket, did you? Or was your sleeping bag too cold for you?" She added playfully as they exchanged this in hushed whispers, neither meaning harm by their squabbling.
Aang froze in his steps, leading her to redirect her attention forward. Oh. My. Gosh! "There it is guys! The Great Divide."
She stood still, soaking in the vast expanse of the great canyon. A strong wind blew past her, rippling her lower dress and tossing her braid back in its grasp. "Wow!" She muttered softly as a smile crept over her. "I could just stare at it forever." Beautiful... Drawing in a breath, this new aroma filled her lungs.
"Okay. I've seen enough." Sokka whimsically quipped, turning back to head for Appa.
Turning back for her brother, she held her arms out in disbelief. "How can you not be fascinated, Sokka? This is the largest canyon in the entire world!"
"Then I'm sure we'll be able to see it very clearly from the air, while we fly away." He finished, turning to point upward in emphasis.
"Hey!" A stern man's voice shot out as he ran through Sokka's raised arm, knocking him off balance. "If you're looking for the canyon guide, I was here first!"
Wow. She couldn't help but notice how upper class he appeared due to his elegant golden-trimmed clothing and brown hair neatly arranged in a topknot. But one thing caught her attention the most. "Oo.. Canyon guide!" She exclaimed and pressed her palms together before her chest excitedly. He halted his advance, casting a stern glare upon her. "Sounds informative."
"Believe me, he's more than a tour guide! He's an earthbender. And the only way in and out of the canyon is with his help!" The man's finger slipped up into the air as he furiously shouted toward her. "And he's taking my tribe across next!"
The whole while Sokka had leaned just beside the man and flapped his fingers idly back and forth, mocking the man's constant running of the mouth. Really? You just have no interest for anything but meat and fighting do you? "Calm down! We know you're next." He exclaimed as the man caught notice of him.
As her brother stepped up beside her and Aang the man jabbed an accusing finger toward him. "You wouldn't be calm if the Fire Nation destroyed your home and forced you to flee!" They almost did. Katara raised an eyebrow for only a moment as he twisted to gesture for the canyon. "My whole tribe has to walk thousands of miles to the capital city of Ba Sing Se!"Oh gosh... wow.
"You're a refugee!" She exclaimed at the thought, more out of pity than realization.
"Huh! Tell me something I don't know."
O...kay. Her eyes drifted away from him toward Aang as to share an unspoken thought for this man's attitude. Catching movement from the corner of her eye, she turned quickly to spot a small crowd approaching. "Is that your tribe?" She questioned kindly, assuming this was the case.
"It most certainly is not! That's the Zhang tribe, a bunch of low-life thieves. They've been the enemies of my tribe for a hundred years!" As they drew closer, he loosed a sharp whistle. "Hey, Zhangs! I'm savin' a spot for my tribe so don't even think I'm stealing it!"
Uh...oh my. She crossed her hands low before her, standing back with her brother and Aang as a heavy-set, muscular woman in brown fur-skins advanced on the man. "Where are the rest of the Gan Jin? Still tidying up their campsite?"
The man's attitude shown through once more, pressing into the larger woman's face. "Yes! But they sent me ahead of them to hold a spot!"
"I didn't know the canyon guide took reservations." The lady's deep voice bellowed as she snickered back, crossing her arms in jest.
The man let loose a sarcastic laugh. With a haughty display of motion, he leaned toward her. "Of course you didn't! That's the ignorance I'd expect from a messy Zhang. So unorganized and ill-prepared for a journey."
Shouts and insults roared from the crowd. Wow. This is pretty sad, are we about to see a fight? She turned to Aang. Maybe he could calm this down. Before she could consider this any further, a resounding rumble caught her attention.
A pile of boulders levitated into the air before being flung away effortlessly, revealing an overweight old man who patted his belly merrily. "Sorry about the wait youngsters!" His deep voice kindly called to the group before him as he turned to stretch his arm for the path behind. "Who's ready to cross this here canyon?"
I don't know. "Uh...one of... them – I think." Katara added doubtfully as she pointed to the crowd behind her. This could get messy.
The man sped past the Zhang, throwing his finger up before him. "I was here first! My party's on their way!"
"I can't guide people who aren't here." The guide added plainly beneath his bushy white mustache.
"Guess you guys'll have to make the trip tomorrow." The Zhang female added as she led her group past them.
A moment of ire passed as the Zhang strode past them for the canyon guide, halting only when this man suddenly exclaimed in delight. "Wait, here they come!" He shouted as the Gan Jin steadily approached the scene.
Katara glanced at the two groups standing at either side of her now. One was mostly brown with animal furs; the other adorned elegant white robes with golden-yellow trim. "You're not going to seriously cave in to these spoiled Gan Jins? I mean we're refugees too! And we've got sick people who need shelter."
This is worse than me and Sokka... "I, uh... well..." The canyon guide nervously put forth his hands, failing to make a decision.
"We've got old people who are weary from traveling." The haughty man addressed.
"Sick people get priority over old people!"
An old, white-bearded man interjected. "Maybe you Zhangs wouldn't have so many sick people if you weren't such slobs."
You've got to be kidding me. She pondered, turning to face Aang, picking up her last train of thought. "Well Aang, ready to put your peacemaking skills to the test?"
"I don't know..." Aang nervously stated. "A fight over chores is one thing. These people have been feuding for a hundred years."
Yeah well, like it or not it's your job. You just need a little push. She turned for the crowd and stepped past Aang, thrusting her finger back for the boy. "Everyone listen up! This is the Avatar. And if you give him a chance, I'm sure he will come up with a compromise that will make everyone happy."
Finished, she dropped her arms to her side and turned to face Aang with a subtle affirming smile. The floor's all yours, Aang. "Uuh...you could share the earthbender and travel together?" He put forth in mock hope.
"Absolutely not!" The white-bearded elder refused. "We'd rather be taken by the Fire Nation, than travel with those stinking thieves!" He spat out, pointing his white-robed arm for the Zhang leader.
"We wouldn't travel with you pompous fools anyway!" She replied back angrily. Oh please, spare me... Katara frowned, back-stepping for Aang and Sokka down-heartedly. Aang's solution sounded fine to me.
"Alright here's the deal!" Aang suddenly bellowed in anger, taking Katara completely by surprise. Whoa! He leapt by her, shouting at the two tribes firmly. "You're all going down together and Appa here will fly your sick and elderly across! Does that seem fair?!"
Silence. There were no refusals, but instead nods as the two tribes silently consented to his new plan. I knew you could do it. You're a great Avatar. Katara poised a hand off her hip, sharing this thought with her brother through a smile.
As Aang helped the sick and elderly into Appa's saddle, the white-bearded Gan Jin leader and the man who had held their spot approached. "I'm sorry for how I treated you before, miss."
She faced the brown-haired man and placed her palms together, giving him a slight head-bow. "It's alright. You have a long journey ahead of you, I'm sure you're exhausted."
The leader cracked a grin and slipped forward, waving off his comrade. "My name is Quon Tin, it is a pleasure to meet you young lady." Sokka crossed his arms as Aang rejoined them. "I am grateful that you would offer us this service. That is all." Stated in finality, he didn't pause for a reply as he turned to make his departure.
"Sorry Appa, you'll have to do this on your own." Aang spoke softly for his bison, reaching to stroke his hand through the soft fur at the side of his head. Poor boy. She mused as Appa shut his eyes and drew in the touch of his master's hand.
"Aang, this feuding tribe stuff is serious business." Sokka asked quietly as he approached the two. "Are you sure this is a good idea getting involved in this?"
"To tell the truth...I'm not sure. But when have I ever been?" He playfully retorted. Hah, it sure seems that way.
She stepped closer and laid her hand on Aang's shoulder. "He's the Avatar, Sokka. Making peace between people is his job."
"His job's going to make us cross this whole thing on foot isn't it..." Sokka frowned and sagged downheartedly for the ground. You just now realized that? I get my guided tour! She beamed pleasantly at the thought.
"Okay, now comes the bad news. No food allowed in the canyon! It attracts dangerous predators." She just barely caught the guide's warning. Oh gosh. Well, it isn't like we had much anyway. His shout recaptured her attention a moment later. "Now! We're headin' down in ten minutes! All food better be in your gut, or in the garbage!"
"Well, I'll go ahead and send Appa off." Aang crossed to Appa's other side, bounding up to the saddle for a moment.
"Great. There goes our last chance at ditching this whole mess."
"Sokka, relax. I'm sure the guide knows what he's doing, this should be very entertaining."
"See ya on the other side buddy." She heard Aang as he patted Appa's head once more. "Yip-yip!"
"And there he goes..." Sokka turned to mournfully watch the large bison disappear in the sky's distance.
After the guide had gathered the tribes together, Katara cradled Momo into her hands and fell in with her brother and Aang, trailing just behind the man.
The walk was quiet as the tribes refused to converse with one another. "Yeah, a real blast." Sokka added dryly. "Take this rocky turn, and down there we have another rocky bend. And oh look; another rock! Can ya guess what's around the next bend?"
"Sokka, stop it or you're going to ruin it for everybody."
"Uh; I'm not sure if you've noticed, but these people aren't exactly here for the show." She pulled Momo tighter against her chest, cupping her hands around his small furry body as he cooed against her. ...okay, you're right. They could probably care less, but I like it.
The canyon guide suddenly let out a shout, bringing her to glance forward just in time to see the stone wall slide out to fill a gap in their path. "Nice bending!" Aang called out as he leapt beside the older man.
"The job's much more than bending, kid. Folks want information." He stopped at the next bend, turning back to the group and outstretching his arm over the vast expanse beyond them. "Many of you are probably wondering how canyons are formed. Experts tell us this canyon was most likely carved into the ground by earth spirits who were angry at local farmers for not offering them a proper sacrifice."
Wow...spirits did this? What happened to the farmers? Katara shared a glance with her brother as Momo laid back into her arms. Rumble. Peeking above her upon feeling this tremor, she spotted a rock slide!
Oh no, there's nowhere to go! She squeezed Momo and bent her head down, gasping in shock as she could only prepare for the worst. A whoosh of wind blew across her as she re-opened her eyes, spotting the canyon guide in a stance before her. He had shifted the boulders away and saved the day! Oh thank you, thank you...this is why we need you!
The old man let loose a loud, guttural laugh. "Eh-heh! Guess the spirits are still angry! Hope you all brought sacrifices." He turned back for the path and proceeded jogging off in a jolly stride. You're kidding me. Right? Just what is a 'proper' sacrifice?
Aang glanced back with a sullen frown plastered across his face. "You think he's cracked his last leechi nut, or is it just me?"
"Aang!" Katara shot back as she stepped up to bump her elbow against him since her hands were full. "It's like Hei Bai. If there's a spirit problem you can solve it."
"Why do I have to do everything?" He groaned in frustration, striding after the guide.
"'Cause you're a goofy kid that just has to stop to see every bump in the road. Sucks being you!" Sokka jeered with a laugh before propping his hands behind his head, trailing lazily behind Aang. Thank the spirits the Avatar didn't choose to be him.
"Excuse me." Aang began his approach to their guide. "I think you already heard this but, I'm the Avatar. As the Avatar I am the bridge between this world and the Spirit World. If there is a problem with the spirits, I can help."
"Oh, eh..." The look the man gave was one of frightened confusion, twisting his cheek back so that his mustache curved. "Um, well, y'see..." That's odd. Katara raised a brow and stepped closer when the man began to whisper in a hush. "There's really no trouble with the spirits...that was all part of the show. Please don't tell anyone."
Her eyes widened as her jaw dropped. "What!?" Sokka incredulously exclaimed, receiving a solid shush from the canyon guide. "You mean you almost got us killed just as part of your gig?"
"No worries, I was in complete control. Been doin' this for decades. Gotta do some'n to spark the viewers' interest! Otherwise they just complain they only saw rocks."
At this, a heavy sneer crept up Katara's face as she eyed her brother. "Sounds familiar."
"So all of this is a lie? You're just using flashy action and exaggerated topics to make everyone interested?" Sokka crossed his arms as they continued walking.
"Ah no, the action was my own creation. The story is as old as the canyon itself. I don't know how true it is, but it's what's told." The man swept off his straw hat, turning as he walked to take a short bow toward Katara in particular. "Name's Borin Do, but you can just call me Bo." He turned back forward and shrugged his shoulders, releasing a heavy sigh. "You youngsters remind me of having my own; years back...those were the days. It's different without her around. Quiet. Too quiet."
"What happened?" Aang lowered his staff to both his hands, stepping forward to turn to Bo's face.
"Ah; Sia got it in her head she had to defend the Earth Kingdom after I guided some recruits through the canyon. Followed 'em south to join up in the war. That was about five years ago now. Miss that little girl. Hope she's alright."
Wait a sec...I know that name. "Sia? Do you mean Captain Sia Re? We met her over a week ago at an Earth Kingdom base."
"Eh?" Bo spun his head back and raised a bushy white brow, smiling wide at her. "Well I'll be! She's made quite a name for herself." He twisted back and wrapped around a curve in their path, trudging for the bottom of the canyon. "Not that I should be surprised."
"Why's that?" Aang questioned curiously as he rounded the corner with Katara and Sokka.
Katara smiled broadly. He didn't know Sia was a captain? Well now he does, what luck for us to be here. "You should be proud of your little girl."
"Oh no, no. She's not my blood. Got no kids and no wife." He rambled on before suddenly stammering to stop himself. "Eh anyway, I found 'er as an orphan wandering just outside the canyon eight years back. Practically raised that little spitfire as my own; even taught her my earthbending." At this he erupted with another belly laugh, rubbing his stomach as he did so. "Not that she needed it; she made my bending look like child's play! Smart young girl." He suddenly turned away toward the two tribes in tow. "Okay, everyone stand clear of the wall!"
What, huh? She glanced around her. Wow, we're already at the bottom. Bo stomped once, but then strained and spun his arms back, launching an immense boulder high into the air. With a loud crash the bridge he had made out of earth earlier shattered against his blow, dropping back to create a large cloud of dust behind him.
"Why'd you do that?" Aang questioned.
"These people are fleeing the Fire Nation, aren't they? Gotta make sure we can't be followed." Ah, that's smart. "We'll be safe now." Just as Bo finished his proclamation an immense clawed arm reached through the dust cloud and seized him, hauling him screaming into the air.
What happened ?! Reactively, Aang airbent the dust cloud away to reveal a four legged monstrosity that towered over them. Bo was dangling from the edge of its mouth, still crying out. Katara froze, clutching Momo tighter between her fingers. Wh–wha... "We gotta help him!" Her brother commanded as he chucked his boomerang square into one of the beast's eight eyes of red.
It shrilled at the blow, slinging Bo into the air as he crashed down by the rock wall. In retaliation it quickly scampered along the rocky terrain in chase of Sokka. "Okay, now we gotta help me!" He shouted and bolted over a rocky incline.
"Go Momo!" She tossed the furry lemur into the air and charged after the creature from behind. I'm coming Sokka! Her pulse raced as she began to shake, slapping off the cap to her water skin. After leaping from the rock Sokka had climbed he bolted back for Katara, but so did the creature.
Keep away from my brother! She drew the water into a ball by her hand. Just as Sokka ran past her, she thrust forward and spread the water into a quick stream, whipping the beast's muzzle with a resounding snap. It lurched back from her sudden strike, but it had no effect. Uh... uh oh! Its jaws, larger than her body, opened wide and lunged to snap her within its grasp.
Oh gosh, help! In a panic she threw herself sideways into the air without even looking where she leapt, screaming in fear. She braced just as she slammed into a protruding rocky mound, lying pressed against its jagged curves.
Quickly she lifted off the rock, glancing over her shoulder half afraid to find jaws closing to devour her. Instead, a whirlwind of dust and debris stretched across the ground and caught the beast in its hold, rotating it violently before slamming it high into the air and against the rocky wall of the canyon. Aang... thank you so much. She let heavy sigh in relief, but immediately rose and bolted to Bo's side.
"What was that?" Aang exclaimed in mortified wonder.
As she reached Bo, she dropped to her knees and slid her feet behind her, gently picking up his arm. Just from this touch, she knew. "Canyon crawler." He strained as he replied, turning his head to groan in agony. "And there's sure to be more!"
She continued gently running her slender fingers along his thick arm, and it surely didn't feel good. Her assumption was right. "Your arms...they're broken!" Oh I wish there was something I could do.
Bo turned his head away from her, wincing at her touch. "Without my arms, I got no bending. In other words..."
"We're trapped in this canyon..." Aang added distantly.
"...well, we have to do something about your arms. Let me set them for you. Could someone bring me some wood or something long and narrow? And some cloth to tie with."
"Whoa, hold up there." Sokka thrust his palms up before him. "We're stuck here?"
"Here you go, miss." Quon knelt and handed her a thin white cloth.
"Hah. Cloth is no good without this." The female Zhang knelt and handed her a long piece of wood to serve as a splint. "Courtesy of Kelda of the Zhangs."
Quon started to retaliate but Katara waved her hand back between their faces. "Okay, got it, thanks." If you're gonna chew on each other do it over there. Ah shoot, just one piece of wood...
She noticed Aang and Sokka had continued speaking as her brother raised his voice louder. "I'm used to eating meat, not BEING the meat! Why don't you share your non-meat diet with them?!"
She loosed a soft sigh and shook her head, finishing placing one of Bo's arms in a sling before beginning binding his other to the wood. "I thought the whole point of ditching our food was so we wouldn't have to deal with things like canyon crawlers." Sokka continued with disgust.
True...and yet here they are. "It's the Zhangs!" She heard Quon shout out. "They took food down here, even after the guide told them not to!"
"WHAT?!" Kelda shot back. Maybe neither of you did. Think of that?
Ignoring the woman's reply, Katara tightened a cloth around Bo's arm. "There, finished. Just take it easy and have it checked when we get out. You should be okay."
"I hope you're happy." Quon retorted. Katara shook her head as she stepped away from Bo, using her waterbending to recover the spilt water during her attack with the canyon crawler and return it to her water skin. "We're stuck in this canyon with no way out!"
"Why don't you thank yourself food hider."
Aang took a step forward to break them up. "Look, sticking together is the only way to–"
"I'm not walkin' another step with the likes of them!" Kelda interjected with a shout.
"Now; there's something we can agree on."
Aang turned back toward her and Bo with a flabbergasted expression. "Any ideas...?"
No... "No bending..." Bo began mindlessly rambling. "We need to get out of this canyon. I won't die down here; I won't become part of the food chain!" Oh dear.
"See!" Quon shouted aloud. "We're going to become part of the food chain because of you!" He thrust a finger out for Kelda. Oh my gosh; shut up already! Katara groaned as the two bickered back and forth another moment, shaking her head in dismay. We aren't getting out any quicker.
Aang slammed his staff to the ground as torrential winds lashed forward through the tribes' ranks, though behind Aang she hardly felt a current. "Enough!" Aang's bellow echoed through the canyon walls, taking Katara by complete surprise. "I thought I could help you guys get along, but I guess that's not going to happen!"
Aang? She stared in awe as he leapt high atop a rocky pillar, spinning back to voice his demands authoritatively to those below. "We should split up! Gan Jins on this side, and Zhangs on that side." This is a solution? Split up?
As Aang leapt from the pillar Katara and her brother raced to his side. His gray eyes danced from one to the other. He's got a plan, doesn't he? "Sokka, you go with the Zhangs, and Katara – you go with the Gan Jins." Wait what? Your plan is to split us up too? "See if you can find out why they hate each other so much." Oh, that makes sense... She twisted for the path the Gan Jin had meandered on without a word, taking after their trail alone. I get to do a little recon.
For most the evening she had followed quietly in tow of the tribe, but as nightfall swept forward they halted their journey to set up camp. "Excuse me." She posed as politely as possible, slipping to stand before Quon Tin as she clasped her hands behind her back. "May I stay here with your tribe tonight sir?"
"Of course you may. Please, just call me Quon. What may I ask is your name young lady?" He questioned thoughtfully as he turned away from observing their campsite be erected.
She bent into a slight bow in respect. "Katara." As he placed his hand into an open palm and bowed in return she observed a fellow Gan Jin slap up support poles for a tent's tarp. Ooh... hm. "You really think it'll rain?"
"No, but you can never be too careful, right?" Quon replied much to Katara's delight. She absolutely beamed at his explanation. I like it here already! Classy, organized, clean and polite! Aang picked a wonderful stay for me. "You may use that tent tonight Katara. Hopefully we will all be free of this fiasco by the eve of tomorrow."
"Oh gladly! Thank you."
"Please come join us by the fire, there will be plenty of stories to tell and perhaps you could share some of your own."
An hour later found her sitting upon her legs with her hands resting gently atop her lap. Beneath her was something new and comfortable, a padded mat provided by the Gan Jin. The fire at the center of their campsite served for warmth against the chill of the canyon's crisp night air.
Their stories were all very captivating, especially the one regarding worshipping spirits, even the Earth Spirit itself. Though it was slightly odd, worship a spirit? That was a first. "You know that spirit is the Avatar Spirit, right?" She added with interest. "So you're technically worshipping Aang."
"Pft! Poppycock." Quon spat out as he waved his hand. "That child is human just the same as any other. The spirit dwells within him, know the difference."
"But..." Aang is the Avatar, isn't that the same thing? "What about his past lives? He's connected to them spiritually, I even saw him take the form of his last past life!"
"This is all very true, but it is all due on behalf of the Spirit of the Earth. Without that spirit's aid, he has no connection to those lives. You see?" He raised a white brow as he tilted his head to one side, eyeing Katara curiously.
"Oh, I guess I never thought of it that way..." Her eyes drifted to the base of the fire, contemplating the thought. This thought was too perplexing, but she was trying to comprehend it regardless. "So as the Avatar, Aang is the Avatar Spirit, but the Avatar Spirit is not Aang?"
"You're thinking too hard dear child." He commented coolly. "Aang is a boy, just as Kyoshi was a woman. The Spirit World holds the Avatar's past lives, and so their own spirits live on. They are no less real than they were in life, the Avatar Spirit is the sole reason Aang can even speak with them. If that spirit were to leave the Avatar he would have no ability to connect with those lives."
"Oh!"I get it, I...think. Maybe. Believing to have finally understood, she bent forward slightly and waved her hands before her, thinking aloud. "But it can't leave? And...um, so then Aang exists separately from the Avatar Spirit too?"
"Getting warmer ; but still trying too hard." He smiled at Katara's hardened effort and gave her a deliberate nod of approval. "Aang is connected to the spirit just as the spirit is connected to him. Should he die, the Avatar Spirit is not dead; it merely finds a new host. However if he is drawing on this Spirit's energy via Avatar State when he perishes, then–"
"Then the Spirit dies with him." She remarked, remembering this from the tales her grandmother used to tell her.
"Exactly. Very good." The topic finished, he slipped both his hands into his white robe's sleeves, averting his attention stoically for the fire between the tribe's members.
These people are amazing. Katara smiled as she turned for the fire, awaiting someone to bring up another good topic. A good minute passed, leaving her to realize just how hungry she was. ...I hope we get out of here early tomorrow; I'm going to be so starved. Her eyes dimmed as she lowered her eyelids, peering into the crackling flames and dancing embers.
Only now she eyed the rest of the well-to-do individuals surrounding the campfire. Each and every one of them looked so magnificent, so intelligent and their posture was perfect. Oh. In a brief moment of realization, she felt terribly out of place slouching among such a group. Quickly she straightened her back and sat upright, mimicking the others around her.Movement caught her eye. Glancing to her side, Quon withdrew his hands from his sleeves. He clutched a bread loaf in his hold, shattering her prior respect for the man. She gasped in horror and glanced overtop the fire at nothing in particular, only to realize everyone was now stuffing their faces with food. But...but...they shouldn't have, they knew better!
"Would you care for some bread, Katara?" She turned a mortified gaze to spot Quon's outstretched hand, offering her what her stomach desired most. N-no!
"So it was you guys who had food!" She quickly voiced her concern, scorning him to his face for his deceit.
"Oh come now!" Quon shot back sternly, tossing a single glance of his brown eyes toward the distant campfire for the Zhangs. "You really think that tribe of thieves isn't smuggling food? Why should my people go hungry, when the sneaky Zhangs are stuffing their faces?"
"Well..." She held a hand up, hunger fighting to defeat her reluctance. Still, there's no changing what's happened...canyon crawlers are out and what's done is done. "I guess it's okay if everyone's doing it." Giving in, she snatched the bread from his hand and quickly tore a mouthful out. However the taste of fresh food laid a sudden guilt on her.
Aang. She pondered for a moment; remembering he was with neither tribe and likely starving. This put her reason for being with the Gan Jin back into perspective. Right, well while here I'll find out why they are feuding. "So, why does your tribe hate the Zhangs so much?"
"You seem like a smart girl, Katara. I bet you would enjoy hearing some history. The patriarch of our tribe, Jin Wei, was an earthbender warrior who was assigned an important duty – transporting our sacred orb from the great eastern gate, to the great western gate. Taking the orb from the east to the west; represents the sun's rising and setting. It was our tribe's ancient redemption ritual. But as he approached the gate, Jin Wei was attacked by one of the Zhang. A vermin named Wei Jin, who looked at the orb with envy. That coward Wei Jin, knocked Jin Wei to the ground, and stole the sacred orb. Our people have never forgot; you can never trust, a Zhang."
No way. She whipped a sudden glare toward the distant campsite, eyeing the distant fires with disdain. They sure do look and act like a bunch of thugs. "So, what happened to Jin Wei?"
Quon dipped his head as his eyes slipped shut. "He perished by the gate."
"That's awful." She frowned downheartedly at the man's fate, all for the sake of simple thievery. "And the sacred orb? What was it; did you ever get it back?"
"That was a rare artifact, one of great worth and importance. Exact records of the artifact's use have been lost, but we know it was directly tied to the spirits." He raised a brow as he smiled temptingly to Katara. "You may find this interesting as well; the spirit it was most connected to was none other than the Spirit of the Earth. It automatically corresponded to the element of the Spirit's host. But ever since that fateful day, my people have no knowledge of the orb's whereabouts."
"It's connected? But, how?" Katara cocked her head slightly, intrigued.
"We do not know. I am sorry. Now, we have drawn well into the night, we must rest for our journey tomorrow. Come Katara."
The next day was long, spending most of it tirelessly hiking the tall walls of the heated canyon. She had trouble sleeping throughout the night before, constantly afraid she would wake up with a canyon crawler storming the tent to devour her alive. It didn't help any when the morning found her nearly stepping on a scorpion. Thankfully Quon was quick on the draw with his sword and took it out before she was struck.
As they rounded the next bend, Katara found Aang standing on a high ledge to her left waiting for her. "Katara, Sokka! Will these people cooperate long enough to get out of the canyon?"
With a bunch of murderous low-lives? Riiight. A scowl crossed her as she stared up to the young Air Nomad. "I don't think so Aang. The Zhangs really wronged the Gan Jins. They ambushed Jin Wei and stole the sacred orb!"
Confused, Aang quirked an eyebrow toward Katara in response. "What are you talking about?"
"Yeah Katara what are you talking about?" Sokka suddenly broke in from the other side. "Wei Jin didn't steal the orb; he was returning it to their village gate and was wrongfully punished by the Gan Jin."
You actually believe the whale-blubber that nasty tribe's been feeding you? "Not punished enough if you ask me!"
"Okay-Okay I get it!" Aang threw his hand up and silenced the two of them as Sokka groaned in irritation. "Now I need your help! Let's get everyone together at the base of the canyon wall."
Oh, he's got another idea. She stood back as he snapped his kite open and thrust into the air, soaring for their meeting spot. Sure thing, time to get a move on.
Moments later found the two tribes gathered face to face before the rock face of the canyon wall, a tall rectangular carved opening lay recessed into its surface, stretching into the rock wall in pitch black. Not giving enough time to get into a heavy argument, Aang swept down and snapped his glider shut. "Please everyone; as soon as we get out of here we can eat, and then go our separate ways. But I need you to put your heads together and figure out a way up this cliff!"
"Maybe the Zhang can climb the wall with their long, disgusting fingernails!" Ha, good one Quon!
Kelda scowled in fury and burst forth with malice. "Oh, sorry. I forgot that to the Gan Jin, unclipped fingernails is a crime punishable by twenty years in jail!" Katara's jaw cracked in mild disgust for the bellowing lady, eyeing her scornfully. Lady you've got way more than unclipped fingernails.
"Why you dirty thief!" Quon spat back.
"You pompous fool!" Kelda retorted.
"You can't say that!" Katara shouted back in anger as words erupted like wildfire in the air, drowning her sudden shout. The only fool here is you!
"GUYS, FOCUS!" Aang bellowed above the shouts at the top of his voice, hushing everyone. Katara staggered back a step and stared toward the young boy in shock. Sorry, sorry! She realized she had gotten wrapped up in this, forcing Aang to indirectly shout at her. "How many times do I have to say it? Harsh words won't solve problems, action will!"
In a silent, serious tone, Kelda returned her attention to Quon. "Perhaps the Avatar is right."
Quon returned this attention much the same. "Yes, perhaps he is."
She continued forward with heightening rage. "Harsh words will never solve our problems." Uuh...Aang? Do something? This is getting out of hand! But he was just standing with the most prideful beaming face she'd ever seen him with. What're you doing, Aang...?
"Action will!" Quon Tin added with a final decree. And with that, out came his sword as well as Kelda's. AANG! She stepped further away from the heated event, fearfully eyeing the two as their swords clashed followed by a dumbstruck shout from Aang.
"To the death!" Quon decreed. "And let this be the end of this rivalry."
"You know... I-I take it back!" Aang exclaimed in wonder. You are SO failing right now Aang! "Harsh words aren't so bad!"
The next moves were as quick as lightning to her. Quon and Kelda traded blows masterfully, slicing through the air and deftly blocking and leaping just in time to avoid fatal strikes. Oh do something, quick! Don't let that wicked lady hack up Quon! She reached idly for her water skin, considering uncapping it to take care of the large beast of a woman herself. But no, she conceded there were too many people...that might be bad. And I'm not that good...
The fury only intensified when both landed a dangerously close blow, hacking off portions of each other's hair, Quon losing half his beard. Just as they reached one another for a second bout, Aang slammed his staff directly in between them with a resounding shout that reached for the skies.
Whoosh! Everyone went sailing into the air from a sudden wall of wind. Aah! Katara slipped off the ground and went airborne as well, descending to skid and hop across the ground as she came to a slow stop beside a rising pillar. Aang...! Wow! I...wow! Her hair was frayed; quickly she pushed it back as she stood back up.
Aang gasped in shock as he sighted the aftermath of his work. "Is that... food? Everyone smuggled food down here?! Unbelievable!" Aang clearly began to rage, twisting back from one tribe to the other as he balled his fists. "You guys put our lives in danger because you couldn't go without a snack for a day? You're all..." He hesitated, before outright swinging his arms irately by his side. "Awful!!"
Katara stood upright and brushed dust off her Water Tribe outfit, smoothing it out and slapping at the lower skirt of her dress. Gosh. I don't think I've ever heard him this mad before... Cautiously she slipped forward, dust and fragments of small stone sliding off her shoes and hair as she advanced a few steps for Aang.
"So...hungry..." She spotted Aang puppy-dog eyeing a pile of food on the Zhang's side. Her eyes softened, unable to carry a straight face upon seeing his. You didn't eat anything since yesterday...I'm so sorry! "Is that... egg custard... in that tart?" He questioned meeker than she had heard in her life. Aw...
A sudden growling roar echoed as screams filled the air. Wha-huh!? Whipping her eyes off Aang's distraught figure, she spotted a mass of movement from the walls of the canyon. Oh shoot! No! This... that's hopeless! Everyone ran every which way, leaving Katara to quickly bolt after her brother as they rounded a corner. "Oh no!" She expressed, rejoining him, resting her hand on the rock column beside her as Sokka withdrew his boomerang. "That's a lot of canyon crawlers!"
"We barely survived one!" He exclaimed as Bo's voice frantically broke out behind her.
"They're coming back for me! They've had a taste; and they're coming back for me!"
She turned her attention back to her brother just in time to see him raise his boomerang and charge for the fray. No! She leapt out and seized his arm, jerking him back. "Sokka, wait!" We can't go to possible death like this! "I don't care about this stupid feud. I just want us to get out of here alive."
"Me too." She smiled whole-heartedly at his admittance. "I only took their side 'cause they fed me." Okay...time to stand our ground. Having assured they did not enter this battle with an argument as their last words, she charged out upon the battlefield, fists clenched, uncapping her water skin to draw out her water.
She rounded the corner just in time to see a heaping mound of canyon crawlers sail through the air as Aang blasted them with an intense strike from his staff. Aang! Seriously, not helping! She fumed, leaping a foot back as three landed on their backs not far from her.
As soon as one flipped over it bolted for her, snapping its jaws furiously as it approached. Back off! She leapt back, sliding her left leg away as she swung her arm wide. The water streamed swiftly from left to right, cracking into the beast's eye. It bellowed and jerked away from the sting, giving her enough time to draw the water back to strike again. Thankfully for her, not for them, it took off after a new adversary, since this one fought back.
The cries of several female Gan Jin caught Katara's ear to her right. With a glance, she spotted a small group surrounded by two canyon crawlers, with one poor man out front with a sword to defend. I got'cha! Deciding to treat her stream as a true whip this time, she clenched her right fist tight near the base of her water stream, feeling its pressure intensify via the chi feeding her arm's muscles.Without missing a beat she sprung forward, bringing her water whip to strike the side of the closer crawler's head. It jerked aside as her surprise blow struck and spooked of the other in the process. Oh yeah! She proudly pulled back, withdrawing her stream to return a sharper strike before it could escape her reach.
Just as she re-entered her stance and struck forward to perform the traditional water whip, her water shattered to the ground by her feet as a canyon crawler raced through her water just past her from behind. With literally no time to think, she screamed in surprise and leapt away, her heart pounding as she gladly realized it wasn't after her. It could have killed me!
"Everybody!" She whipped her gaze to her side at Aang's call. "Watch me and do what I do!" With that, he hurled food into a crowd of canyon crawlers, hefting a brown sack at the ready as they rushed him for more food. Oh I hope you know what you're doing! Just as it reached him Aang leapt up and slammed the large sack over the beast's massive muzzle, tightening it firmly. Oh sweet!
"Sokka!" She shouted as she caught sight of her brother running for a nearby bag.
"On it!" He crisply replied, grasping the empty sack in his hands. She snatched up the nearest food she could find, an old stinky fish, and stretched forward over one knee as she held it upright to attract the attention of a nearby crawler. Here little guy...who...isn't so little!
Sokka slipped up beside the beast's maw while it was distracted. Oh hurry Sokka! Just as its jaws reached close she leaned away from it, straightening up and lowering her arm. With a quick ripple of cloth, Sokka captured its maw within the sack. "Yes! Good job!"
Blegh. She lifted an eyebrow at the fish, tossing it quickly away from her. Nasty horrible Zhangs... She mulled as she wiped her hand on her gown. "Now follow me, we're riding out of this hole!" Aang bellowed.
"Riding?!" Katara questioned in exasperation. "He can't be serious!"
"Uh..." Sokka grinned stupidly and shrugged back in reply. "Just like riding...Appa? Heh. Instead of a ten ton fluffy snot monster; it's a ten foot tall ravenous meat-lover...where's the harm in that? Am-I-right?"
Not helping. Her eyebrows bunched up as she eyed it, all eight of its red eyes gleaming toward her furiously. "Let's get this over with."
This was awful. Its hairy body was prickly to the touch and the creature reeked of week old garbage. Oh my word; how does this thing live with itself?! Still she clutched its stiff hairs firmly with her brother by her side as it ascended the canyon wall chasing after Aang's food lure.
"Everyone, get off!" She heard Aang's cry just ahead. With a sudden jolt it straightened out at the top of the ravine, leaving her momentarily unbalanced. She landed with a thud atop its head and quickly shoved back to sit on its neck. Being so close to its mouth, tethered as it was, unnerved her greatly. I'm out, we're out! I will never do this again.
Swinging her leg over top the creature's neck, she kicked into the air and sailed just past its rampaging leg, landing deftly beside her brother as she crouched from her leap. Well, actually, that was kind of fun. A sense of adventurous pride washed over her as she turned to watch the beast run off.
The tribes had regathered, Quon Tin and Kelda standing side by side as the last of the canyon crawlers charged after a bag of food Aang hurled back over the edge. Nice...you got us all across, Aang. I knew you would make a great leader...take that Sokka! She crossed her arms and smiled proudly at the young boy in front of her.
"I never knew a Gan Jin could get his hands dirty like that." Kelda remarked kindly.
"And I never knew you Zhangs were so reliable in a pinch!" Quon exclaimed in return. Good job Aang, good job! Katara dropped her arms, propping the back of one hand off her hip as a subtle smirk crept over her.
"Perhaps we're not so different after all." A heavy, thankful sigh erupted from Aang, bringing Katara to turn a larger smile upon him. That's right, you settled this...congratulations Aang.
"Too bad we can't rewrite history." Quon suddenly retorted. Shing! His sword swept from his scabbard, aiming threateningly for Kelda. "You thieves stole our sacred orb from Jin Wei!" Katara's eyes widened as her mouth dropped open. No way, not this again. After all that, this!?
Returning the threat, Kelda swung out her crooked sword and raised it in challenge. "You tyrants unjustly imprisoned Wei Jin for twenty long years!"
Aang groaned in exasperation before suddenly straightening himself. "Wait a second; Jin Wei, Wei Jin? I know those guys!"
"Yes-yes we're all aware of the story." Quon mildly quipped to Aang's enthusiasm, which this distraction earned him Kelda's sword point straight before his face.
"No!" Aang quickly shot back to maintain attention. Katara eased her tension, crossing her arms together as she lifted her left hand idly before her chest in contemplation. "I mean, I really knew them! I was there one hundred years ago on the day you were talking about." What...really? Wow, you're just everywhere!
"There seems to be a lot of confusion about what happened. First of all, Jin Wei and Wei Jin weren't enemies: they were brothers – twins in fact. And they were eight. And most importantly, they were just playing a game! The sacred orb from the legend? That was the ball! And the eastern and western gates were the goalposts. Jin Wei had the ball and was running toward the goal when he fell and fumbled it. Wei Jin didn't steal the ball, he picked it up and started running it back toward the other goal, when he stepped out of bounds. So the official put him in the penalty box; not for twenty long years, but for two short minutes."
Unbelievable. Aang, you never cease to amaze me. She had slipped her hand further up her chest and had idly gripped her chin between her fingers, keeping an intrigued smile upon the young airbender. "There was no stealing and no putting anyone in prison. Just... a game." Aang finished with a finger in the air before him.
"You're saying the sacred orb was actually a sacred ball?" Kelda questioned in astonishment.
"Nope." Aang quickly shot back. "Just a regular ball!"
"What about our tribe's redemption ritual!" The man they had first met spat out quickly from the crowd.
"That's...what the game was called, redemption! As soon as someone got the ball from one goal to the other, everyone would yell – redemption!" He exclaimed as he threw his arms high into the air. A moment of deadened silence swept over the crowd before Aang added. "Don't get me wrong, Wei Jin was kind of a slob and Jin Wei was a little stuffy. That much is true! But they respected each other's differences enough to share the same playing field."
Kelda and Quon Tin regarded one another kindly for once. "I suppose it's time to forget the past." Kelda thoughtfully proposed.
"And look to the future." Quon Tin welcomed her request graciously, sharing bows with one another.
Momo swooped down as they headed back for Appa, landing on Katara's shoulder. "Hey little guy." She smiled, reaching up to grasp him and pull him down into her arms. "Where've you been, cutie? With Aang?" She patted his ears down low as he cooed up into her neck welcomingly.
"Thank you for the help young lady." Bo stated as she stepped near him. "The spirits must have sent you to save me and my arms. Not jus' that, but to send me off with comfort knowing my little Sia's success. Means a lot to me, kid." He suggested, wobbling his arm forward.
"Thanks. But you should still get them seen to, it will take a long time for them to heal, or not at all if they aren't seen to soon."
"Eh; yes." The older man consented with as he bowed his head behind his straw hat. However he quickly returned a warm smile upon Katara. "But you have truly given me hope I can see the day my arms heal up to bend again. But my canyon days are over, I'm afraid."
Suddenly a series of shouts of cheers and agreement filled the air. The Gan Jin and the Zhangs were joining to continue their journey to Ba Sing Se. "I'm going too!" Bo vehemently proclaimed, leaping from his position to run with a strained hobble after them. "I'm sick of this place!"
"That's some luck you knew Jin Wei and Wei Jin." Sokka commented as the three were left standing alone, back to their usual numbers. Sure is!
"You could call it luck..." Aang mildly returned with a halfhearted stretch of his arms. "Or..." He bent forward, cynical amusement crossing over his bald features. "You could call it lying."
Aang?! "What?" Sokka uttered in amazement. She dropped her jaw wide, loosening her hold on Momo. You did not seriously just lie to two tribes whose entire history was shaped on that..."I made the whole thing up." Aang chuckled singularly as he shrugged off their astonishment, a beaming smile creeping over his success.
"You - Did - Not." Katara slowly exclaimed her prior thoughts. But then, she couldn't help but be attracted... Aang, I've never seen this side of you before... "That is so wrong." She added with weighty pleasure. I kind of like it.
"Now where's that custard tart? I'm starving!" Aang's attention shifted quickly as he swept back to scour the landscape for remnants of food. Oh right...you haven't eaten a thing.
Sokka turned a curious gaze on his sister, his face still contorted from Aang's lie. "You seriously didn't just praise Aang for that, right?"
Speaking of food, something returned to her mind, wholly ignoring Sokka. "Um, Aang? What about those canyon crawlers? We left their muzzles on..."
"Oh." Aang froze and glanced back to Katara in brief horror. "Uuhh... they'll figure something out?" He nervously chuckled, reaching up to rub the side of his head. "Oops."
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Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg