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Succumbed by sickness, Katara holds out hope that Aang will see to their aid as she lies helplessly on Appa's side with her brother. She remembers days of old, people long forgotten, and a life she can never return to.
Can you count the number of promises, insinuated or otherwise, that weren't lived up to here?
These flashbacks helped with filling in during the downtime Katara is given during this episode. And actually; I feel that if we are following Katara's tale, right now is a fine time to introduce these aspects of her life. We had just learned of Aang's history, here we see Katara's. Bear in mind that during "The Southern Raiders", it would not be a flashback, because Katara tells Zuko bits and pieces of the events, not reliving them. Hence, right here I feel is much more fitting when we make this story based on Katara.
"Oh man. I think that fish he gave us yesterday was rotten. I'm feeling worse..." Sokka slipped his hand to his stomach as he leaned over the saddle's side high in the air. "Aang...you might wanna think about pulling over before you have to give your bison a wash."
"Let me see." Katara scooted on her knees beside her brother and held the back of her hand against his forehead. "Sokka, you're burning up!" Quickly she leaned back, resting atop her legs as her blue eyes scoured the distance ahead of them. A chill had fallen in the beating winds as darkness approached. "Aang, I think we need to listen to him and find some shelter for the night, in case this turns into another storm again."
Aang pulled out his map and slapped it down atop Appa's head, running his finger along it. "Alright guys; just sit tight and I'll find us somewhere."
"Why is the sky below us?" Sokka idly questioned as his eyes placidly examined the blue river below them. Suddenly his grip on the saddle's edge tightened, keeling over to let loose a series of hoarse coughs.
Oh boy. She reactively gripped his arm, not willing to chance him losing balance to fall over the edge. "Hurry up; I don't think this is because of the fish."
"This place is abandoned... I doubt we're going to find anything to help Sokka here..." Katara muttered dryly as she observed her surroundings. They had landed in a musty stone room open to the air on two ends, supported by rising columns.
"Are we in Omashu?" Sokka questioned dubiously, his eyes drifting along the moldy ceiling overhead. She shook her head dimly in reply. No, Sokka. We're not.
"Sorry; my map says this is Taku!" His map lay stretched amidst growing weeds on an old, stone tiled floor with his fingers running across its surface.
Oh right; the hundred year old map. She remembered miserably with a sigh, deciding to make the most of their situation. "Don't worry about it. I'll just help Sokka with what we have. At least we have a roof here."
"Well while you do that...I'm gonna have a look around. One of these buildings might still have medicine in them, you never know! I'll start a fire when I get back."
"While out there would you look for some ginger root? Herbal tea is great for sore throats."
"I love your little hair loopies. Come closer..." Sokka's hand stretched aimlessly up for her face, clearly attempting to seize one of her dangling hair loops.
Sokka...? Katara's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Uuhh...no." Batting away his hand, she rose to get his sleeping bag. You seriously need to lie still and let this run its course...
"Uhh...I'll be back." Aang posed with just as much doubt as she was experiencing.
Some time had passed, thunder rolled in the depths of the darkness surrounding them. Katara wet a rag with her bending water, having already shared some to drink as well. "So how come you're wearing your coat now?"
"I got a little chilly." She replied to Aang as she climbed up Appa's leg to kneel beside her brother. As he began to cough yet again, she cast her thoughtful blue eyes on him and scooted closer to his side. "This should bring your fever down." Holding the moist rag on Sokka's head, she instantly felt the heat emanating at her fingertips.
"You know what I love about Appa the most?" He stated absent-mindedly, grinning stupidly as he cocked his head toward the bison's furry face. "His sense of humor."
She smiled. "That's nice. I'll tell him." You're kind of sweet like this. Her kind words carried her thoughts.
Appa, with his large muzzle turned for the two resting on his side, loosed a bellow that echoed off the stone walls. Sokka broke into a humored chuckle. "Classic, Appa..." She raised an eyebrow, staring at him oddly. But you're scaring me.
"How's Sokka doing?" Aang questioned, stepping up beside them to glance up to the two.
"Not so good." She turned back to her bundled brother, ensuring she kept the moist rag firmly placed on his forehead. "Being out in that storm really did a number on him." Observing her trembling brother, pity overcame her. That is, until snot streamed from his nostril only to be sucked back up again. Oh spirits, disgusting... She cringed but said nothing, twisting her forehead up in concern.
"I couldn't find any ginger root for the tea." Great. She turned to Aang as he held a parchment out. "But I found a map." He knelt down and spread it out across the stone floor, turning his head to the open distance beyond. "There's an herbalist institute on top of that mountain, we could probably find a cure for Sokka there."
And get him out in this cold weather? "Aang, he's in no condition to travel. Sokka just needs more rest, I'm sure he'll be better by tomorrow." A rising tickle in her throat suddenly took her off guard, breaking into a sudden hard cough blocked by her hand.
"Not you too!" Aang exclaimed sadly.
Me? No-no, I'm not sick. She wide-eyed Aang as she waved her hand dismissively ahead of her. "Relax; it was just a little cough! I'm fi–" But a hard cough broke her word, leaving her head to feel terribly stuffy. Finishing her series of hoarse coughs, she loosed a dreadful moan and somberly drifted her gaze for the floor. Shoot. I'm sick...
Aang had pulled away and threw his arm up, seeing as she was coughing in his direction. Sorry... Quickly he jerked back and laid his palms on the tile. "That's how Sokka started yesterday! Now look at him, he thinks he's an earthbender!"
Huh? She slowly turned to spot her brother punching a fist at mid-air. "Take that, you rock!" Satisfied with his result, he slumped over his sleeping bag, eyeing the distance vacantly. Brother...
Turning back to Aang, his mouth was agape as his eyebrow twitched in horror. "A few more hours and you'll be talking nonsense too!" Snatching up his staff, he rose with determination. "I'm going to find some medicine!"
Thanks Aang. She smiled and leaned back, deciding she could relax for once and let Aang handle this. A sudden crack of lightning drew her attention back though, spotting Aang snap his kite shut. "Uh...maybe it's safer if I go on foot. Keep an eye on them guys." Huh? Oh, Appa and Momo.
Laying softly into Appa's side, her head rose as Appa suddenly roared back to Aang agreeably. He understood that? "Ha!" Sokka laughed madly, sinking back into his sleeping bag. "You guys are killin' me!" Really? She eyed him, but smirked nonetheless. She couldn't help but be amused by her brother's new antics, though they didn't seem that unlike his usual behavior.
As time passed, her head began to swim with a clouded weight, a heavy pressure in her chest holding her down. She had resorted to drinking her bending water, sharing some with Sokka, but there hadn't been much left in her water skin to share.
Momo slipped down Appa's horn and crawled by the sickly girl's head. Wearily her eyes opened to sight the lemur, feigning a smile. "Hey."
"What are you?" Sokka suddenly broke the silence, turning his head for the creature. "Oh...dinner..." Don't...don't you even. But he fell back down and slid into his bag, shivering like a madman. Momo curled up beside her head and cooed softly, drifting to sleep.
She laid her head back against Appa's soft fur, gazing aimlessly to the stone ceiling with a subtle frown. Exhausted from the overwhelming sickness, her eyes slipped shut momentarily, clutching her empty water skin firmly in her hands. Yet within simply minutes, she drifted into a deep unconsciousness.
Southern Water Tribe
"I'm gonna be five!" Katara exclaimed excitedly as she leapt along a snowy trail with her brother, beneath the shadows of tall walls of ice. "I'm so excited!"
"What's the big deal? I can tell you myself there's nothing special about it." Sokka joshed around, crossing his arms as he smirked down to his little sister.
"Meany!" The little girl snapped back, grabbing a loose handful of snow from a nearby bank to hurl it at her brother.
He brought up his arms and blocked the tuft of snow that pelted against him. "Hey, watch it!"
"You're only saying that because you're turning six!" She frowned sternly and pointed an accusing finger at him.
"Yeah but that's not for like another month after your birthday." He answered coolly, brushing remnants of snow from his coat's dark blue sleeves. Finishing this, a mischievous grin crept upon his face. "So...know what you're gettin'?"
"Of course not silly! It's a surprise." Turning, she paced further along the packed snow trail without him. She waved her arms out mindlessly as she called to the thin air ahead of her. "Duuh!"
"Well; I heard Mom and Dad talking about it."
She froze in her tracks and twisted to her side, eyeing her brother. "Tell me! Tell me! What did they say?!"
He shrugged disinterestedly in return. "They've no clue what to get you this year. They don't have anything for you."
Her eyes widened in horror, dropping her arms by her side as her body sagged toward the snow. "W-What?"
"If it makes you feel any better they probably don't have anything for me either, being a month away and all y'know." Sokka muttered with a lack of concern, wistfully explaining away this trivial detail.
The little girl's eyebrows crossed tightly, refusing to accept this as fact. Lividly she shouted in denial. "You're lying!"
He threw up his hand in retort. "Scout's honor, promise!" But then he let out a sharp chuckle. "Maybe they'll just cancel your birthday if they can't get a present in time. Then you'll be stuck being four."
As a shout burst from Katara for his joke, he ignored her and stepped into a nearby cutout in the ice wall which served as a restroom, disappearing from sight. "That's not funny you big meany! Take that back!"
"I'm a little busy in here Katara." A brief pause interrupted them as her eyebrows began to twitch with anger. "Why don't you come back when you're five? Oh, right. That could be awhile."
Balling her gloved mitts into fists she stretched them in front of her, shaking them furiously. "You...you're..." She raged, pulling her small body's muscles taught as she swung her arms madly behind her. "You're such a jerk!"However her move had triggered something. The ice wall shook as a single crack ripped in its side. A heavy mound of snow loosened and plummeted with a roar. Katara gasped and leapt away just in time to avoid being crushed from the sudden avalanche, landing on her stomach and sliding into the opposite snow bank. Recovering quickly she bounded up, turning to see just what she had done.
Muffled cries from her brother could be heard behind this immense snowfall. "What did you do?! Gah! Get me out of here! Help! I can't see!" She panicked. Struggling quickly to her feet, she cupped a gloved hand over her mouth as her twinkling blue eyes absorbed the horror of what just happened. "I'm telling Dad! You're going to be in so much trouble!"
She ran. In sudden fear she turned for the village's front gate, bolting as fast as her small legs would carry her atop the snowy trails.
Charging through the gate she bumped against a group of children and burst through them. "Katara?! You alright?"
"Sorry Saku!" But she didn't stop, ignoring the young boy as she ran on. That is, until she glanced forward and ran into the arms of her grandfather.
"Hold up." Wham. She slammed into the old man's gut, knocking the wind from him. "Oof! Whoa there; why the rush?"
"Sorry Grandpa...I-I wasn't paying attention." She gazed up into his light blue eyes, his large bushy white mustache welcomingly smiling down to her.
"I heard it over here, let's go!" Katara glanced aside as she spotted a fellow tribal warrior with long brown hair beneath a blue bandana, Kavir, running for the gate with Hakoda, Bato and Torak in tow.
Horrified that what she did was about to be discovered she turned and buried her face into her grandfather's stomach. He patted her head lightly as a soft sweet voice called out to her. "What's the matter dear?"
Katara kept her head buried into her grandpa's stomach, beginning to shiver beneath her blue coat. "I'm sorry Mom! I don't know what happened; i-it was an accident. Promise!"
"Oh precious!" She expressed worriedly, dropping to her knees to embrace her little girl in her arms. "What was an accident? I'll listen quietly if that's what you want."
The warriors' cries echoed over the far wall as they discovered the avalanche. Katara instantly stiffened, cringing. She knew it was just a matter of moments before they discovered Sokka was behind it and gripped her mother's shoulders tightly with her gloved hands. "I...I did a bad thing." She muttered, muffling her voice into her mother's chest.
"Go on, child." Nanook, her grandfather, addressed kindly as he stood just beside his daughter in law, Kya.
"Um..." Her mother remained silent as she had promised, gently rubbing her child's back with one hand, while holding the back of her head with her other. The comfort she provided melted Katara's fear a portion, sinking willingly into her mother's loving embrace. "I got mad at Sokka and now he's buried!"
As if on cue Hakoda's voice bellowed into the sky in sudden surprise. Kya jerked back at her husband's shout and gazed for the wall in horror. "Well; we know that part's true." Nanook responded with piqued interest.
In a minute's time the entire town had gathered by the outer wall to aid digging out their leader's son. Katara stood pensively a safe distance away, eyeing the catastrophe she had caused. "So, what happened? What was he saying to you this time?"
Katara didn't answer. Her eyebrows pressed tightly upward as she contemplated the trouble she was going to be in when they finished.
"Hey. Hello? Yoo-hoo?" The boy waved his gloved hand in front of her face, but she only lowered her eyebrows and stared vacantly toward the people around them.
"Everyone's here. The whole village...I...I..." She stammered, biting at her lip. This wasn't going to be good. "Sakuma...I'm scared."
He laid his hand on her shoulder and gave her a gentle shake, leaning against her with a smile. "Calm down. Look, whatever the jerk face said to you, he totally got what was coming to him. I mean seriously, look at this!" He stepped in front of her and laid his deep blue eyes on hers, waving back behind him to the crowd. "That's just awesome, gal! Forget what they do to you; it was worth it!"
She hesitated. Sure, it was kind of cool, but at the same time highly embarrassing. Her blue eyes fell to the snow and scoured the many footprints left behind, pondering what to do. "Relax." Sakuma crossed his arms and bent down, shoving his face in her line of sight. "After it's all over we can head out to find a flock of arctic hens to spook or something. Eh? Eh?" He held his arms out low in front of her, beckoning her eyes to lift.
"Oh stop it." Despite her vague attempt at remaining afraid she couldn't help but smile. He was so much fun to be around.
"Not without me!" A girl piped up as she leapt beside the two of them. "So it's true! You did blow up the wall, everyone's talking about it!" The girl gave Katara a sharp elbow with a laugh. "You're in deep." She added humorously, settling her soft blue eyes on her.
Katara's smile faded to a frown as her eyes again averted to the snow. "Kaibi!" Sakuma spat out, turning to give her a shove. "Gosh, I just got her to smile and you have to do that. Thanks for nothing."
"It's okay." Katara muttered quietly, dismissing her two best friends' play.
"Sorry, sorry! I just never expected to hear you'd do something so...big!"
"Katara! Come over here." Her father shouted from the distance. Wincing at her father's demand, she glanced toward the gathered crowd and noticed her brother had been freed, standing beside her parents. Fear rose steadily through her body, leading her to swallow hard before gingerly making her way for what would come.
With each crunch of snow beneath her feet her anxiety escalated. Drawing closer to her family, the crowd dispersed and headed back for the village. But as her grandfather passed he brushed beside her and muttered reassuringly. "Chin up kiddo."
Several feet from her father, she froze in her tracks and idly clasped her mitts together. "Yes Daddy?" Boldly, she forced herself to follow her grandpa's advice and lifted her eyes to meet his.
He opened his mouth yet remained silent, obviously quite exasperated with what to ask. But finally he raised one hand, pointing his index finger toward the mound of snow and crack in their village's wall. "How did you do this?"
"It was an accident!" Desperately imploring her father to understand, she began to tremble but held her composure.
"We know that dear." Kya interrupted, continuing for her husband. "We're just curious what you were doing when it happened?"
"She was throwing a tantrum and shouting at me!" Sokka interjected quickly, leading Katara to dip her head again and eye the snow in defeat.
Her gut churned. Her brother had literally sunk her by not letting her explain herself. Before she could conjure up a retort for a quick save, her father broke out. "Now hold on there, son." Kneeling before his frightened daughter, his eyes leveled with hers. "When you were angry, what did you do?"
"I shouted...and um..." She lightly held her arms out in front of her in gesture of her prior action, unsure how to explain it. "I was mad."
Kya gasped softly and knelt over, laying her hand on Hakoda's shoulder. "Honey...I think it's true. She really is."
"Me too." He smiled and reached forward, laying his strong hands on his little girl's shoulders. "Katara. You're a waterbender."
"Huh?" Her eyes widened. She wasn't being punished? Both her parents were in her face and all smiles, terribly confusing her.
"Oh great. Just great." Sokka countered angrily. "Waterbender or not she still did this! And me! Do you have any idea how bad it stank in there? I could have died from just that!"
"Sokka you're fine." Hakoda interrupted abruptly, standing as he gently turned Katara around. "Let's all go home and celebrate over dinner."
Her mother excitedly stepped beside her daughter and grasped her hand, heading home. "Did you know you could do that sweetie?"
She answered with a shake of her head, bouncing her hair loopies in front of her face as she did so. "Ugh!" Sokka released in anguish, obviously distraught for being pushed aside. As Katara returned with her family for the village, both Kaibi and Sakuma gave cheerful thumbs up from the snow bank they had perched on to watch the show.
A distant echo of a horn jarred her awake. Releasing a pained groan, her throat throbbed to remind her of her condition. Saku...Kaibi...I nearly forgot you two. She shut her eyes and sighed, relaxing as her mind settled again.
She mused quietly to herself regarding her dream. Sokka really did get the worst of that. A brief smile crossed her lips as she remembered her parents doting over her and her newfound potential, receiving literally no punishment for what she had done to Sokka. It's no wonder you hated waterbending.
"Katara...please...water!" She heard her brother beg between shaky rasps.
I can't...I'm sorry. But maybe someone else can. She wearily lifted her eyelids, turning to the lemur beside her. Momo's large green eyes thrust wide open, gazing back into her exhausted eyes of blue. "Listen carefully Momo..." She began slowly with pained rasps, hefting her water skin up in front of the confused creature. "I need you to take this to the river and fill it with water. Don't lose it there, come right back with it...got it?"
Momo reached his paw out for the strap of the water skin, seizing it. Beating his bat-like wings rapidly the small creature took flight to leave them quickly. Her hand flopped back to the bison's soft white fur, as well as her head. "Water's on the way...Sokka."
Aang shouldn't be much longer. Her head swam with weariness; her eyes held a dull ache behind their sockets. Using as much strength as she had left, she crawled off of Appa and secured her fur-lined sleeping bag, dragging it back to her brother's side. Attempting to settle her congestion she closed her eyes and breathed softly, pulling herself into the bag, drifting back to sleep to allow her body rest.
Southern Water Tribe
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" A chorus of shouts filled her domed home as dozens of individuals all cheered and clapped joyously. Katara was all butterflies, dancing her ecstatic eyes from friend to family.
"Congratulations sweetie!" Kya excitedly called out from ahead of the crowd, clasping her hands ahead of her chest proudly.
Katara swiftly threw off her mitts and coat on a nearby counter, having come in from the outdoors. "Oh thank you guys!" She beamed back at the many familiar faces, but couldn't help blushing at the overwhelming attention she received.
"Alright enough of that." Kaibi bolted from the crowd, carrying a small blue box that fit in her palm. "Now it's time for the real fun; presents!" Opening the small box, Katara found pairs of purple, blue, gold and teal beads. At first this confused her, until a moment of realization opened her eyes wide. "They're for your hair loopies!"
"Where did you get these? They're neat!"
"I made them." Kaibi shrugged back at her. "I mean, it's not like I had them lying around. Y'know, no hair loopies and all." She added with a jest, pointing up to her dark brown hair held back by a soft blue headband. "Well...Mom helped."
This was the first gift of many, but one of the most memorable. Her grandparents had got her a fashionable hooded blue coat with white fur, having been handcrafted by Kanna herself with rich purple designs along its front. All in all by the end of the gift giving she felt like a stylish new lady.
But one thing troubled her; Sokka had been right. Through all this, her parents had given her no gifts. Sitting upon her legs on the floor, she idly thumbed the golden beads she had hastily put on. She couldn't believe they hadn't got her anything.
"Looks like we're all out of gifts." Sokka muttered under his breath at her side. Her gaze drooped to the ground, frowning softly as he rubbed in just how right he had been after all. It was over this that she had trapped him behind snow, and he had been right. Who should she be more mad at; Sokka for telling her, or her parents for actually forgetting her?
"I hope you've enjoyed your birthday so far." Her mother directed her attention back to her, kneeling before her daughter. As their eyes met, her mother noticed Katara's saddened expression and lifted her dark brown eyebrows in exasperation. "What's wrong, why do you look so sad?"
Kya placed the palm of her hand aside Katara's cheek, gently rubbing her fingertips against her soft skin. Katara fought herself further; unsure how to tell her mother she had hurt her. "Cheer up sweetie; it's time for your best surprises yet." Her mother smiled pleasantly as Katara's eyes lit up like the midnight sun.
Her father's deep voice addressed her calmly at her side as he dropped to a knee. "When you're ready; your present's in your bedroom where it's been waiting for you all day."Her jaw fell agape. All day? She had been here in their living room and it had been just under her nose all day? Kya giggled at her girl's open mouth, but this hardly detracted Katara's excitement. Bounding from the floor she broke free from her mother's gentle hands. A moment later found her slinging back the cloth of her bedroom's door.
Entering the room a furry white head, with a black stripe down the top of its head and back, lifted from her the dull blue blankets over her bed, setting its dark blue eyes upon her in curious interest. "A PUPPY!" Katara exclaimed at the top of her voice, dropping the cloth door behind her. Her excited cry had startled the poor polar bear dog, causing it to tumble away and back toward the edge of the bed.
She charged for the side of her bed, whipping along its edge as the dog whimpered and turned to run at her charge. Just as it did, she picked it up in her arms and held it softly against her chest. "You're so cute." She stated much more calmly, rocking the soft furry creature back and forth.
"Your father and I weren't alone in getting you this gift Katara." Looking to her mother, Kya was leaning off Hakoda's shoulder with her arm twisted around his. Pleased with their daughter's happiness, she continued. "Sokka helped pick which one would be yours out of the litter."
"Yeah, sorry about lying to you." Slipping back the cloth, Sokka poked his head into the room. "I wanted this to be the biggest surprise ever." Katara's forehead knotted at her brother's care.
"Go on, name it!" Kya excitedly proclaimed, lifting her head from her husband's shoulder. "We felt since it will be yours you can choose its name."
"Hmm...I think I'll name him..." She tilted her head away from the pup. It had stopped squirming when she had calmed down, and now with their eyes locked, its tail began to steadily sway back and forth as it appeared to smile back to her. "Kesuk! Yes, that's your name little guy. You're all mine!"
"Yes Katara, about that." Hakoda spoke authoritatively from the doorway, drawing her attention back to him. "We want you to start learning responsibility, so this pup, Kesuk, is all yours. We will help you take care of him for awhile but we would like to see you take over that and see to his needs. We think this is good for you."
"Of course! I'll take great care of him!" She added without giving much thought to what this really meant.
Katara merrily scarfed down a helping of crab cakes, a rare delicacy that her grandma made on special occasion, dangling her legs over the edge of her grandfather's knees. A ripple of the igloo's front door filled the living room, followed shortly by an eerie silence as the gathered crowd hushed their chatter. Nanook gently nudged Katara's back, reaching over her shoulder to point his index finger toward the entrance. "Watch this."
Lowering her food, her eyes rose to spot something she wasn't familiar with. A seaweed green-like figure loped through the doorway for the nearby dinner table, approaching her grandmother. This creature was large; standing at least two or three people long though no legs could be seen as its green mossy body, if it could be called that, dragged the ground. Even more perplexing was its head and arms, numerous tentacles and an oversized octopus head stared toward her grandmother.
Katara trembled in fear before her grandfather gripped her shoulders with his firm hands. "Patience. Just watch, you'll be fine." Kanna turned around as the creature drew a foot behind her, and then screamed aloud in sudden panic as she stumbled back against the table.
Nanook chuckled quietly behind Katara, confusing her that he wasn't upset over this. Then the creature spoke with an ominous, twisted male voice, cracking and low. "I am the spirit of the water; it has been long since I have felt the water's pull. That time is now; where is the waterbender?"
"A w-what? Water spirit?" Kanna exclaimed in exasperation. Nanook gave Katara's shoulders a soft squeeze again as Kya, by her side, laid a hand on her girl's leg and issued a shush to ensure her little girl would remain calm. "What do you want with her?"
Katara, being calmed by both her mother and grandfather, had enough attention to notice her father's two tribal warriors standing a short pace off. Kavir and Torak both appeared to be chuckling! "That is for the spirits to be concerned with. Now where is this, her?"
A horrifying scowl crossed Kanna's grey eyebrows downward, twisting her wrinkled face into a mortifying snarl. "So much as touch my granddaughter and so help me, spirit or no, I will tear your tentacles out with my bare hands!" Not even waiting for a response, Kanna gripped the handle of a nearby cooking pot with soup and swung it, slamming its backside flat against the side of the creature's face with a resounding clang.
The creature moaned in surprise and tumbled back against a steaming wave of soup as her grandfather gave her shoulders an even tighter squeeze and laughed softly. "Kanna! It's a blubbering spirit; you'll need more than a small pot!"
"Grandpa!" Kya spat in sudden retort as Kanna threw the pot to the ground.
"Right!" Kanna dumped out a larger pot filled with crab cakes and immediately trudged forward to land another blow on the creature.
"That's my husband!" Kya whispered under her breath spitefully. "She really believes he's a water spirit!"
"It's great isn't it?" Nanook chuckled under his breath as Katara's eyes widened in awestruck wonder.
"That's right; get out of here you cowardly spirit!" She chased the lumbering beast out of the igloo's entrance, followed with the echo of another clang out of sight.
"That was Dad?" Katara questioned in confusion, turning to gaze into her mother's blue eyes. Try as she might she couldn't see how her father was behind that ugly creature and that horribly creepy voice.
"Well; and Bato. They both did it, but I don't know which one got hit." Following this Kya lightly slapped Nanook's leg with the back of her hand and gave him a hard scowl. "That was foolish! How do you think Kanna would feel if she really hurt your son?"
"He's had worse." Nanook calmly retorted with a smirk.
"You're growing up so fast." Her mother whispered softly behind her, holding Katara upon her lap with her arms stretched around her little girl.
Katara only laughed in reply, overjoyed with her birthday. Sitting in her mother's lap, she stroked Kesuk, who lay quietly in her own lap.
"I want to tell you about a very special present that I intend to give you when you are a little older." Katara leaned back against her mother's chest, twisting her head to her left to glance up into her face. "Your Gran Gran gave me this necklace when I married your father." Kya rested her fingertips against the azure stone upon her dark blue choker, smiling warmly. "When you are older it will be yours too."
Her blue eyes honed in on the necklace, admiring its beauty with an immense grin. "Mine? I can have it?" Her hand left the pup's head, reaching up to wrap her small fingers around the cool, hand-carved stone. "When!"
"Not yet. But I will give it to you when you are ready, I promise." Kya drew Katara closer into her arms, swaying her gently side to side. "First, your father and I have been discussing something very important that we would like to share with you."
"You're the only waterbender in our tribe...we want to help you learn waterbending." Hakoda spoke clearly from the doorway, addressing his wife and daughter who sat peacefully on her bedside. With a quick few strides he approached the two, rubbing his forehead which had a clearly visible knot. "I'm going to take Kavir and Torak and sail to find you a master, your grandfather will look after the tribe again while I am away."
"Really?!" Katara gently helped Kesuk off her lap and leapt up to clutch her father's arms. "I'm going to learn to waterbend?"
Hakoda laughed humorously as Kesuk joined in the excitement, yapping and bounding along the edge of the bed with his tail in full wag. "Yes Katara, I'm going to do my best to find you a waterbending master to train you. I don't know how long I will be gone for, but I promise I will see to helping you learn."
"Mom! Did you hear that? I'm going to be a real waterbender!" She exclaimed with wild enthusiasm, turning back to see her mother's eyes soften with the warmest smile she could muster.
"We're both proud of you."
Proud of you...
Proud of me.
Her eyes slipped open, reminding her of the sharp pain coursing through each pulse. Why did I have to wake up... She heard her brother groan beside her, mumbling something she couldn't comprehend. We're getting worse. Appa seemed to be fast asleep, breathing gently with his large head buried into his two front legs.
What are we going to do? At this point, standing was out of the question. Just lying still her head was swimming. Her brother broke into a small, pained cough, before muttering with a rasp. "Water..."
Slowly, she turned her head to see her sweating brother. As she spoke, her words were slow and calculative. "Momo should be back any minute..."
Right on cue, something small scampered into the open room. Katara straightened her head and lowered her eyes to see this creature was just who she was referring to, Momo. Allowing herself a soft grin, she imagined they would have a taste of fresh water in a moment. Wait...where's my water skin...
Momo clambered up Appa's leg and perched atop of Katara's sleeping bag, poking his large curious green eyes into hers. She lifted her head in confusion as Momo outstretched his offer to her, a dead white mouse. No, no...don't... She cringed as Momo dropped the dead animal on her stomach. "Ugh!"
Please Momo...just get us what we need! Her blue eyes rose to his. "No Momo, water!" She lifted her hand beside her mouth in attempt to clarify this to him. "Wa-ter!" The small creature seemed to understand what she said, chattering back at her in acceptance before scampering down Appa's side and across the ruined stone floor.
Her eyes idly followed the lemur disappear from sight. With a subtle frown, worry creased her brow. "Aang, what in the world is taking you so long?" She dropped her head back to Appa's side, gazing thoughtlessly to the ceiling with a heavy heart.
"Is Aang getting us water?" Sokka mildly returned.
Her eyebrows fell. I just sent Momo off for water, and he didn't catch that? ...calm down, he's sick. He's sick. "No, Momo is getting us water. Aang is getting us help to get better." She summoned the strength to pick the mouse left by Momo up by its tail, giving it a short toss back to the ground below. This alone drained her of her energy.
Thankfully, Sokka didn't reply. Either he hadn't heard her, it didn't register, or he may have drifted to sleep. Letting out a soft breath, she laid her head back into Appa's soft fur, doing just as she had assumed Sokka had; drifting back to sleep.
Southern Water Tribe
"Gosh you're a hard girl to find. Um...Katara? Are you alright?"
Sitting atop a rising embankment, gazing out over the distant icy waters of the ocean, Katara squeezed her legs closer to her chest. "No."
The boy dropped by her side, tossing his shaggy brown hair back before lowering his hands to his lap. "Since everyone's talking about it, I'm guessing this is because your dad didn't bring a bender home for you."
The sheer reminder of it brought a hard scowl to the little girl's face, glaring at oncoming rippling waves as if they had wronged her to her very core. But she didn't reply; she simply stewed over the events that had occurred.
"...or is this because of your grandpa? Or maybe-"
She cut him off with a livid shout. "It's everything Saku! Everything! Dad wasn't home when grandpa died, and now he's back and didn't bring me a teacher like he promised me he would!" At this she slammed her foot forward and slapped her hand against the snow, unintentionally waterbending a heap of snow a short foot away where it fell softly.
Sakuma leaned forward, turning his concerned deep blue eyes toward her. "Katara...what happened last night?" His words were soft and filled with concern, causing her to dip her eyes with a sullen frown to the snow by her feet.
Releasing a troubled sigh, she wiped the tears from her cheeks before pulling her legs back up against herself. "He's been gone for so long. Last time I saw him I was four. I mean...five, right." Her seventh birthday was around the corner, and this weighed heavily on her mind. "He comes home now and doesn't even tell me why he doesn't have a master. I heard him telling Mom he sailed all around the Earth Kingdom and ran into trouble. Why couldn't he have just told me? All he bothered to say to me was he was sorry. So what!"
"Um..." Sakuma turned away, staring at the ocean in deep thought. As he began to softly, carefully speak, he idly ran his hand across loose snow around him. "Maybe he really is sorry. At least he's home in time for your seventh birthday..."
She didn't answer for a long moment. Instead, she sulked and turned her head away from Sakuma, scowling down at the farther snow banks. "You don't understand." Her eyelids lowered, shifting to gaze out the corner of her eyes behind them toward the village. "Mom tried to make this out to be nothing too. But I know she sees it the way I do! She's been different after he left."
"Really? You think they're not happy?" Saku reached out and took hold of her fur coat's sleeve, attempting to direct her attention back to him instead of speaking to the back of her head.
Turning back to face her friend, she sighed and shook her head. "Do you think I'm wrong? Mom's been so sad since Dad has been gone. And when Grandpa died, Grandma got even sadder too. It's just not been the same..."
He scooted closer and placed his arm around her, laying his gloved hand on her opposite shoulder. "Chill down there bender-girl. I don't think you're wrong...I get what you mean." They both turned away from each other, gazing over the water beyond with two forlorn faces. "But it's not all his fault."
"I know." She quietly replied. "Mom knows that too." She sighed quietly, hanging her head yet continuing to gaze over the bright ocean. "Maybe I never should have been a bender."
Silence. But she felt Saku's eyes on her and slowly turned her head away feeling the intensity of his gaze, staring idly out of the corner of her eyes the complete opposite direction. "Do you really think that?"
"...no. I don't know. I just don't like this." Saku released a heavy sigh, turning his eyes off of his best friend. The two children sat in quiet, watching time pass with each slow wave beyond them.
Southern Water Tribe
With time, and warm affection from her mother, her wounds had healed and all her hurt died away. Her seventh birthday wasn't quite the greatest, but the best present was that her father had returned and she was warming up to him once again.
Following her eighth birthday, just Katara and her mother shared a simple luncheon with one another. Slipping a leg of arctic hen under the table, Kesuk greedily snapped it up. "Katara!" Kya dropped her hands to the table, cocking her head to the side as she grinned astonishingly to her little girl. "Kesuk has food you know."
"He was hungry!" She giggled, fidgeting in her seat.
"I can see that." Her mother smiled warmly, lowering her eyelids slightly as she decided it was time. "I have something important I'd like to tell you sweetie. This is very special to me, because it meant a lot to your grandmother who requested it to remain in the family." Her slender fingers slipped up to tap the cold blue stone before her neck.
"Is it time to give it to me? Do I get to keep it!?" Katara slapped her hands to the table and wide-eyed her mom in sudden surprise.
"I simply decided now that you're eight, it was time to tell you a little more about it. Gran said it was a part of who she was; the last she had of her family so long ago. She treasures it more than anything and wanted to share with us the love this necklace has shown her."
"Ooo." Katara settled back into her seat and smiled perplexedly. "So, do I get to keep it?"
"When you come of age to be considered a woman, I will give it to you then."
"What!? I have to wait until I'm sixteen?" Katara shot out quickly in defiance. "Mooom!"
"Oh come now." She joked with a friendly laugh. "I promised I would give it to you, now I've just told you when. Think of it as something to look forward to." Kya stacked her daughter's plate atop her own, beginning cleaning up after their meal.
"Can I at least wear it? Please?"
Her mother stifled a peaceful chuckle and smiled down to her little girl, setting the plates upon the counter. "How about this sweetie? Rather than help me with dinner tonight, I'll let you take care of dinner all by yourself. If you do that, I'll let you wear this necklace until next suppertime."
"Really?! Promise? I can do it!" Katara yelled excitedly.
"That's my girl. It's a promise." She placed her hand gently on the side of her head, rubbing her hair softly. "Go out and have some fun with your brother for now."
"Okay! Thanks Mom!"
"Hahaha missed me!" She jeered at her brother as he hurled a snowball past her.
"Oof! Hey, watch where you're throwing things you guys!" A man's voice snapped back to them.
"Sorry Kavir! It's her fault, she dodged it!" Sokka quickly retorted.
"My fault? You threw it!" She grinned sarcastically and chuckled in response. "I can't help you can't hit the side of a whale."
"Yeah well whatever your aim is my backside didn't appreciate that." Kavir nodded to Sokka before turning for the main gate.
"Sorryyyyy!" Sokka held out his cry, before receiving a snowball in his open mouth to fall over a mound of snow behind him. "Hey! I wasn't ready for that!" He shouted out of sight behind the snow.
"Then do something about it!" She taunted, poised to throw another snowball the moment she saw his head peep over the edge. He walked right into her trap. Up popped his head with a snowball in his hand, pow! He bit her snowball right in his face. Having owned her brother twice in a row she burst into a fit of joyous laughter, covering her mouth with her mitts.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Sokka standing a short pace from her with a massive pile of snow in his hands. However, he dropped it and aimlessly eyed the sky in bewilderment. Confused, she turned to glance up as well. Black snow.
At first only a handful of black flakes fell, but then it gathered. The following seconds revealed every snowflake that fell to be tainted with the black soot. Tales from the tribe's warriors and from her Gran Gran reminded her exactly what this meant; the Fire Nation was coming. "I'm going to find Mom."
She bolted away from her brother without a moment's hesitation, racing along snowy trails that led to her home, a domed igloo, at the center of their village. Warriors and other tribe members raced past her for the waterfront by the tribe's main entrance. A roar of battle cries filled the air from behind her, sending a nauseating chill through her gut.
Drawing closer to her home, a loud crash echoed that jolted the very ground she ran across, causing her to stumble for a moment. Relying on the comfort her mother's loving arms; she thrust back the cloth doorway to her home and leapt into the living room. "Mom!"But she wasn't alone. Her mother knelt on the floor, staring back at her with sorrowful fear in her eyes. A man clad in crimson and black armor with a winged helmet stood between the two, turning just enough to cast a sharp glare on the little girl who had interrupted him.
Her brow creased as her muscles froze up; her eyes feverishly dancing at the scene before her. "Just let her go, and I'll give you the information you want." Her mother began in attempt to reclaim the man's attention.
But it didn't work. He turned more completely and issued coldly in a deep, commanding tone. "You heard your mother. Get out of here!" He snapped back with a shout, tilting his head slightly to set his eyes sternly on the horrified child.
She couldn't look into his eyes, literally shaking in panic. His harsh shout forced tears to her eyes, weakness crippled her legs as she held her hands firmly together ahead of her chest, heart pounding in terror. Only one pair of eyes gave her any comfort right now, and she stared directly into those soft eyes of blue. "Mom...I'm scared..."
"Go find your dad sweetie." Her mother's prior worry faded, nodding her head reassuringly for Katara. "I'll handle this."
This request and comfort gave her the final strength she needed to break free of her frozen position. First, she lifted her small head, turning to gaze at the harsh eyes locked on her. Deep eyes of brown honed held her captivated, burning into her his fiery rage and dominance. Unmoving, unblinking, they continued to watch her – issuing a silent command to leave.
Her gut felt like a stone. Her next actions were so reactive she wasn't even aware they took place. Her eyes drifted away from this contemptuous glare, back to her mother for a brief moment. Kya's soft blue eyes held a certain pity about them, but offered the comfort Katara needed to have the strength to leave.
Her feet had carried her as fast as she could force them along the village's snowy trail. Ignoring the pounding pressure and fear that forced tears to her eyes, she arrived at a raging battlefield by the front of their village. The scent of hot flame stung her nostrils, black snow filled the sky darkening the ground where it fell, and there beyond the village's walls her father and his warriors moved quickly as they traded blows with their adversaries.
No thoughts crossed her mind to the violence she witnessed, still panicking and stiff from fear. Instinctively, she found her dad as he engaged in combat with a firebender on his own. "Dad! Dad!" She began, hardly even noticing the man fighting her father. "Please! I think Mom's in trouble! There's a man in our house!"
Slamming his adversary headlong into a wall of snow, he dropped the man to the ground and turned back for his daughter who stood above the battlefield on a nearby bank. "Kya!" In a moment's notice he had bounded up the snow bank and bolted past her, running for their home.
Her father would take care of this. He had to! She charged with him faster than she could even realize, actually managing to force her smaller legs to keep her beside her father.
They made it. Her father was going to throw that man out of their home. He slung back the cloth doorway and leapt through as Katara slipped in behind him.
The man wasn't there, but her mother was. Her eyes instantly ran for her mother's, finding her face turned toward her as she lay upon the ground. In this one moment, something didn't seem right. Her mother wasn't looking back at her. She simply stared vacantly, sorrowfully, through Katara as if she weren't there; empty.
Her eyebrows knotted. Her mother was there, but she also wasn't. Before Katara could even call out for her, Hakoda's gloved hand twisted back and forcefully pressed against her chest, shoving her back outside. "Get out, get out!"
Stepping just outside the door her father's strong arms held her firmly in his grasp. "Mom! MOM!" She struggled against his hold, trying to break free and run back inside.
"Shh, shh..." Her father refused to let her loose, his grip on her only tightening as he trembled.
Kanna stood by her home's doorway a short walk off, gazing in awe at the two. "Hakoda!" In a moment of surprise; Katara burst from her father's arms and charged the doorway once again.
"No!" He caught her arm, jerking her back as she flailed madly.
"Let me go! I want to see Mom, what's wrong with her? Let me go! ...MOM!"
"Stop it Katara!" He demanded fiercely, which sent a sharp tremor through her body as she glanced back to her father. Tears were running down his cheeks, but his eyes were stern with a scowl creasing his brow.
"Hakoda...no...is she?" Kanna questioned, having drawn closer. "Tell me no."
Katara couldn't take her eyes off of her father. His expression scared her to death. She didn't understand if he was furious with her, sad, or scared like she was. "Take her home Gran. Don't let her out. I'll come by later..."
Her grandmother gently seized Katara's gloved hand, which had ceased flailing. "Son...I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."
"Go..." His voice cracked at the word, saying no more as he let go of Katara. His eyes averted from the two, staring to the cloth doorway with an even sharper scowl.
"Right...if there's anything..." But she stopped and remained quiet before gently tugging Katara's hand. "Come child, let's go."
As the two slowly walked back hand-in-hand to her grandmother's home, Katara spotted Kaibi and Sakuma's faces peering out each of their respective doorways at her. Ignoring this, her blue eyes drifted straight up questionably to her grandmother. "What's wrong with Mom? Is she..." She can't be. Katara's eyebrows tightened at the thought, but she couldn't make sense of seeing her mother like that. "But I saw her..."
Kanna turned her aged, mournful eyes to her granddaughter with a sullen frown. Just this told her the answer as Katara broke into hard cries, letting her tears finally run free.
A sudden thump jolted her awake. A wave of dizzying agony swept over her as her eyes focused on a furry white lemur perched on her stomach, gazing back at her with bright green eyes. Ugh... She felt sick to her stomach, swatting idly at him to move off of her gut. Wiping her cold sweat on her coat's sleeve, she dried her tear-filled eyes to more clearly focus on her surroundings.
Now she recognized what he had brought her; a large brush the size of a broom. "What are you doing?" She questioned disdainfully, before spotting a series of fans, pots and other various clutter lying all around Appa. "You brought all this...? Momo, go get water...and my water skin..."
Off Momo flew again with a rapid coo, ready for his next adventure. She could hear her brother shivering, but as spaced out as her mind felt this hardly registered, drifting back to her dreams, her memories, and what she had seen. She remembered those hollow eyes staring through her, as well as those eyes that glared into her soul so spitefully.
Frowning as her brow creased, she spoke softly to herself. "Nothing was ever the same again." Sighing, her brother interrupted her for a moment with a hoarse cough. "I wonder what would have happened if I found Aang back then..."
"Found what?" Her brother's raspy voice questioned her in apparent confusion.
"Who, not what." Katara answered with a frown. His sickness was hardly humorous any longer, or perhaps it was that she was sick herself and not finding humor in this now, or maybe even due to one of her most vivid dreams for weeks. She couldn't truly tell.
Mom... The two lay still in utter silence as Katara's eyelids slid halfway closed, trapped in her thoughts. Following that fateful day families had split, with many a variety of reasons given. Kaibi and Sakuma each left with their respective families, settling in newly founded tribal villages scattered about the South Pole. Even those that remained behind moved; finding the position too dangerous to remain at.
A soft coo broke her thoughts. Momo dropped an object atop her head before perching beside her on Appa's leg. For a single moment her eyes widened to gaze up at the creature and make sense of what he dropped on her this time – a crown. A crown...? It didn't matter.
"How many times do I have to tell you Momo?" She began weakly. "We need water. Wa-Ter." She explained crisply with a wave of her hand. This was futile, the lemur had lost her water skin more than likely, and obviously failed to comprehend her. He cooed calmly, turning his black face to observe the collection he had brought.
"Oh forget it..." In disgust, she rolled away from the creature to shut him out of her mind. Clutching her sleeping bag in her hands she pulled it up tightly and implored to her own hopes. "Aang, please hurry..."
"Who's this Aang kid you keep talking about your highness?" Sokka wistfully questioned.
Her head clouded over, mixed with the sickness overwhelming her and sudden rage that her brother would dare forget Aang. She scowled furiously and glared out the corner of her half-open eyelids in his direction. You're lucky I don't have any water to bend...
Try as she might, she could not go back to sleep. Emotional over her memories, strained from her feverish sickness, she simply lay on Appa and drifted in and out of a semi-subconscious state.
In this mindset, her thoughts vaguely ran from face to face, occasionally waking back up to stare at the stone ceiling. She saw the tearful faces of Kaibi and Sakuma as they shared their goodbyes, and the many months of lingering sorrow and downhearted attitude that had sunken upon every heart that had remained behind, her own father especially.
For several minutes her mind hung on the memory of the warriors' long discussions, the return visits from the other tribal villages' leaders, and the eventual departure of all the warriors for combat against the enemy that had changed all their lives.
"Don't give up, Sokka." A distant memory of her own voice echoed, reminding her of Sokka's pain and how she held him up after their father left. She recalled how he finally admitted to her the pain of never having the chance at becoming a man as per tradition. "You'll find a way."
She hid her pain. Everyone she spoke with had their own. Her Gran Gran taught her well, but was forced to let granddaughter handle many of the tribal needs and care giving due to her age. Idly her mind recalled the strangest of memories; her calling children over for a tribal dinner, bandaging wounds – particularly Sokka's, but something in particular froze in her mind following this.
Birthdays. They just weren't the same. Even when the village gathered together, the excitement had obviously diminished. She found herself wondering if she would even feel any different when her sixteenth birthday rolled around, to be officially considered a lady. She already wore her mother's necklace, and did everything a woman of their tribe would.
"Suck on these...it'll make you feel better." Aang's words were more like distant echoes to her as he placed something cold in her mouth. Her eyes cracked open just enough to spot his orange-yellow form walk off behind Appa, before her eyelids fell once again.
"Aang..." Sokka mumbled with his mouth full. "How was your trip? Did you make any new friends?"
"No, I don't think I did." She barely heard Aang's weak reply, but even then only subconsciously understood what he said a minute afterward.
As time passed, whatever she was sucking on had warmed up and gained a sweet-sour flavor. It wasn't half bad, though it was new. "Mm...this is tasty!" She heard her brother exclaim gladly. About this time, however, she felt her treat move. Her eyes widened in mortified horror; remaining perfectly still as if she had imagined it.
Apparently her brother had the same notion; as he spat loudly to eject whatever he had been sucking on. No, no no... Whatever was in her mouth pushed outward to escape! She opened her mouth wide and shrieked at her discovery.
She watched in disgust as a frog leapt from her mouth, landing on the stone floor below. Both she and Sokka erupted in a series of sickening coughs and cries, wiping her mouth and tongue on the coat of her sleeve. As her stomach churned violently, she held back the urge to throw up.
"Aang! AANG!" Sokka shouted at the top of his voice, leaping up to stand within his sleeping bag. He bounced in front of Katara, heading for Appa's tail. "I'm gonna stick you in Appa's mouth and see how you like that!"
"Can it wait 'til later? I'm not up for it right now." Aang questioned wearily, rolling over to look mournfully up to Sokka. Katara had clambered to her feet and made her way after her brother, worried he really was going to stuff Aang into Appa's mouth, though had he not shouted, she might have.
Seeing Aang, Katara's eyes widened. "Aang...what happened to you...?" He obviously was extremely tired, and his clothing had rips and tears along its edges, an entire slash along his shoulder. Stepping closer she laid her hand on the clothing and pressed it apart, checking him over.
"Uh...well..." He winced at her touch, grunting momentarily as she gasped in shock.
"You're bleeding! Where were you? Get that shirt off now; I need to tend to you!"
"Do frogs have teeth and claws?" Sokka crossed his arms and raised a brow, staring at Aang curiously. "Really though, what crazy adventure did you go on this time?"
He pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it idly to the stone floor as he dropped back to Appa's tail. Numerous gashes and cuts lined his shoulder and back, none too deep but enough to draw a little blood. "Aang..." She covered her mouth and eyed him pitifully. "Go get water Sokka, now!"
"Going, going!" He took off in a run, snatching up her water skin that apparently had been returned by Momo at some point during their sickness.
"Aang?" She knelt beside him, placing her hand on his arm softly as she observed his wounds.
"I uh, kind of got captured by the Fire Nation during the night."
"You what?!" She leaned back upon her legs, dropping her arms to her lap as her mouth fell agape.
"Remember Zhao? He chained me up in a fortress of some kind. I'm sorry it took me so long to break out and get you guys cured."
Her brow lifted tightly at his apology. He's kidding, right? He's sorry he got captured? "Aang...it's not your fault." She leaned closer to him and gently hugged him, feeling him sigh softly as he relaxed. "As soon as Sokka gets back I'll help cleanse your cuts and sew your clothing. I'm so glad you made it back in one piece!" Leaning back, she stared into his weary gray eyes and questioned softly. "How did this happen?"
"I was ambushed after I left the Herbalist Institute. We probably shouldn't stay here..." She nodded, just as Sokka ran into the open room.
"Sokka, you're flying Appa. I'm going to mend Aang in the saddle while we get out of here." She conceded they would tell Sokka what happened mid-flight, but for now they had to do as Aang suggested and flee.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg