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|Bato of the Water Tribe (P 2)|
21-Bato of the Water Tribe (P 2)
After Sokka successfully performs Ice Dodging with Bato's oversight and Katara and Aang's help, the group discovers Aang has withheld a vital piece of information from them. After what could have been the worst choice ever made, the group reunites after Aang comes to Katara and Sokka's rescue, who had been captured by Zuko and his new accomplice, June.
There was a canon element changed for this chapter, for the very first time, in my writing. Yes I know I add fanon elements - but what I add I attempt to keep in line with canon, ensuring not to alter it but build upon it. However this time is different.
It makes no sense that Katara's necklace, made by Aang, appears and disappears during The Fortuneteller, before altogether disappearing entirely never to be seen again. It was a goof on the writers and animators to allow that to happen, and as such, Katara is still wearing the necklace here. That said; I still try to ensure it changes nothing else canon, but there you have it.
Sometime after Bato had helped himself to the delicious papaya so kindly given by Katara, the four jogged through the woods toward Bato's boat. "Say, Katara?" The elder warrior questioned. She raised her eyebrows, lifting her eyes to the taller warrior curiously. "What is that you're wearing, if I may ask?"
"Oh." She smiled warmly, lifting her finger to tap at the flower at her neck. "Aang made it for me. Do you like it?"
"I see. Of course, it looks wonderful on you." After a moment's silence, Bato furthered his question. "What did you do with your mother's necklace?"
Her smile faded, lowering her gaze to the trail ahead of them as it shifted to a sandy beach. "I lost it about two weeks ago."
"My apologies. I understand it meant a lot to you." An awkward silence ensued as the four continued their approach to Bato's ship which was now in sight. "Speaking of which; our warriors left my boat behind, though I haven't been able to keep it up with my injury. Only lately have I patched it up and made it seaworthy again, or she'd look better than you found her."
"I wondered why there was moss growing on the hull." Sokka added, claiming his chin between his fingers.
"This ship is sentimental to me." He began once closer, finishing by laying his hand on the hull of the boat. "It was built by my father." Katara cupped her hands ahead of her, staring up to the fur-lined siding of the ships rail.
"Is this the boat he took you ice dodging in?" Sokka questioned curiously.
"Yep! It's got the scar to prove it." Bato let out a humorous chuckle. "How about you Sokka? You must have some good stories from your first time ice dodging."
Oh...you thought... Sokka didn't answer, turning sadly for the shore. "He never got to go." Katara explained on her brother's behalf. "Dad left before he was old enough."
"Oh, I forgot you were too young."
"What's ice dodging?" Aang questioned, bringing Bato to turn to the young Air Nomad.
"It's a rite of passage for young Water Tribe members. When you turn fourteen your dad takes you..." Bato paused, turning to face the forlorn young warrior. He smiled thoughtfully and laid his hand on Sokka's shoulder. "Ya know what? You're about to find out."
"It's not with Dad, but it's still ice dodging." Sokka added with quiet pleasure, standing beside his sister at the center of the boat. "Sort of."
She grinned, easily understanding what he meant. Yeah; kind of hard with no ice here. Bato has something mind, I'm sure. "I'm happy for you Sokka. I told you you'd get to do this." She reassured, tilting her head slightly to further her smile.
A grin crept over Sokka, nodding in reply. "Thanks sis."
"Ice dodging is a ceremonial test of wisdom, bravery, and trust." Bato continued, seemingly explaining to Aang who was at his side. "In our village it was done by weaving a boat through a field of icebergs."
Wrapping one arm about the side of the ship's mainmast, she pressed her other off her hip and cast her blue eyes over the blue water ahead. The scent of sea-water carried by the warm winds surrounded her, filling the ship's sails.
"How are we supposed to ice dodge without ice?" Sokka finally questioned the obvious.
"You'll be dodging... those." Those? She glanced back to see Bato's finger pointing ahead of them. No... no way! She turned back and dropped her jaw in surprise. I think I'd prefer ice! Numerous rocky outcrops stretched from below the waters, threatening to tear the ship apart.
She swallowed hard, mustering the courage to see this through. Turning back with her brother they met Bato midway, who began issuing orders. "Sokka, you steer and call the shots. Lead wisely." Sokka bolted for the aft, laying his hand on the rudder.
Then Bato turned to her. "Katara, you secure the mainsail." Got it. We'll be okay. She smiled and turned back to the center of the boat, stepping closer to lay her hands on the rope tied to the mainsail. Bato had followed her. "The winds can be brutal, so be brave." She smiled up to her father's friend, giving him a nod. I'm ready.
The warrior turned back to issue his final command. "Aang. You control the jib, without your steady hand we all go down. Your position... is about trust."
Suddenly Aang spewed a swift rebuttal. "I know that! Why wouldn't I know that?! I'm the Avatar! I know about trust." She glanced back and tipped her head slightly, eyeing the young Air Nomad curiously. Where did that come from?
Bato turned and strode past her for the front of the ship, a smile firmly upon his face. "For this to be done right, I cannot help. You pass or fail on your own."
Oh. She didn't like that. Turning a worrisome frown over her shoulder, Aang returned his grey eyes to her, sharing his confusion. Sokka stood by the rudder with one foot on a wooden platform, his mouth agape. Well...he trusts us with his boat.
"Aang, ease up on the jib." Sokka began loudly. "Katara; steady!" She wrapped both hands tightly around the rope, glancing up to the sails being beaten by the wind. Turning her attention ahead of the boat, they quickly approached the first series of crags, like seeming claws rising from the depths. I hope you know what you're doing!
"Aang, less sail. Katara! Give him room!" She shifted to one side, tugging the rope back to let Aang control the jib. Raising her eyebrows she observed Aang struggle with his rope, jerking and pulling at it quickly. You don't know what you're doing...do you?
Splash! Sea-water soared into the air as the Water Tribe vessel skipped between two crags. Her eyes followed the tall, black rock, frowning at the thought of being dashed against its jagged edges.
"Aang! Helm to lee! Helm to lee!" Sokka absolutely shouted with panic.
"What does that even mean!?" Aang shouted back before he simply jerked the rope down as if he understood. Oh gosh. You really don't know what you're doing!
The boat suddenly rocked to one side, veering into a sharp left. Katara lost her footing and nearly fell, but saved herself by dropping her right knee and keeping her hands on the rope, holding it firmly in position to remain steady.
"Great job!" Sokka shouted over the wind and waves. She leapt back to her feet and took in her surroundings; they had made it past a number of crags. Yes! She offered a toothy smile to her brother before glancing ahead of them for their next destination.
A seeming wall of said rock claws awaited them. Bato! Do you know about this?! Her eyes scanned up and down the hostile territory, but didn't spot a safe opening. Sokka's in charge at the moment... She spun back to him and shouted. "There's no way through!"
Sokka threw a bold fist in the air as he returned a shout in confidence. "We can make it!" What?!
Her mouth fell agape, unable to even respond. Idiot. Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! "Sokka you've already proven yourself, maybe we should-" Bato was cut off by Sokka's confidence.
"Aang, I'm gonna need air in that sail. Katara I want you to bend as much water as you can between us and those rocks!" She glanced away from him with a sullen frown. You really think I can do that? Sokka, I...that much water? "NOW!"
Her stomach turned a knot. If she failed at this, they would all die. Okay, water...work with me now! She turned for the front of the boat and stretched her feet solidly into position, spread apart from one another as she began her bending.
She bent down, lowering her arms ahead of her to allow her chi to lay hold of the water below the boat. Swiftly she rose upright, lifting her arms to strain against the ocean's surface. Reaching the zenith of her rise, she dropped low, repeating her motions swiftly. Her hair braid and clothing whipped about as Aang's rhythmic bending filled the ship's sails with wind.
Katara sensed the water was rising, lifting the boat higher as they approached the point of no return. It's working! She held back a smile as she dedicated her mind to the task, controlling the water to keep it from plummeting, coupled with Aang's bending to keep afloat at the top of the wave.
She held her breath, keeping herself steady to maintain control. A loud splash resounded as the wave she had bent collided with the rocks below. Yes! They passed over the rock spires, allowing Katara to release her tension and relax her bending, returning the ship to sea-level with a steady descent.
Relief overcame her, letting out a sigh as she leaned to press her back against the mainmast. Aang slumped over the fur of the side of the boat, also breathing heavily. I can't believe I bent that much water...
Her brother let out a heavy sigh of relief. You're crazy, but I love you. This is your big day...not mine. She turned to him and provided him a broad smile with her teeth in full display, remaining against the pole as her pulse slowed. She kept quiet the rest of the trip back, as did Aang, while Bato shared a large bear hug with everyone individually and began detailing his first ice dodging experience to Sokka.
Once on the shore, Bato tossed a sack to the beach and knelt beside it. "You three, line up. This is a special day; it is time to honor your achievements."
All of us? Katara blinked in surprised, but stepped beside her brother anxiously. This is a wonderful day! Even Aang gets to participate! She wore a precious smile that just spoke of Thank you Bato!
He approached to stand before the three of them. Proudly beginning their tradition, he dipped his fingers in a shallow bowl filled with black ink. "The Spirits of Water bear witness to these marks! For Sokka, the mark of the wise." Reaching his fingers forward, he ran his thumb along Sokka's forehead to lay the mark upon him. "The same mark your father earned."
He returned his fingers to the bowl and turned to Katara, reaching for her next. Her eyes followed his fingers excitedly as his thumb pressed against her forehead. "For Katara the mark of the brave." Really? She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and beamed an immense, awe-struck smile to Bato. "Your courage...inspires us."
She turned as Bato finished the last of the three markings. "And for Aang: the mark of the trusted. You are now an honorary member of the Water Tribe." As Bato laid the mark upon Aang's forehead, the young boy paled in response and set his grey eyes in astonishment upon the Water Tribe warrior.
Congratulations! Bato had not fully finished the ritual, but Aang interrupted. "I can't..."
Don't be silly! She set a broad smile upon Aang and exclaimed excitedly. "Of course you can!"
But Aang's demeanor only worsened, he dipped his head and backed away from the three, holding his arms out in sorrowful gesture. "No, you can't trust me."
I...what? Why? She leaned toward him, questioning curiously. "Aang. What are you talking about?"
He only closed his eyes and gave a slight turn of his head, pulling a crumpled paper from beneath his orange vest. "A messenger gave this to me for Bato." He answered quietly, extending it for her.
Her heart sank. Whatever this was, it was bad. She stepped forward fearfully and snatched the paper from Aang's hand. Unfolding it quickly amidst its many crumples, she ran her eyes along its contents. A map... "You have to understand..." ...no! Her heart and thoughts froze as she covered her mouth, silencing a quiet gasp of horror. The map had directions to a location at the Eastern Earth Kingdom, just west of Ba Sing Se. "I was afraid you were–"
Sokka burst in beside her and jerked the map aside, leaving her eyes to land on two words alone; rendezvous point. "This is the map to our father! You had it the whole time?!" He shouted, snatching the map away from Katara. She dropped both her hands to her side, turning a forlorn look of confusion and pain to her friend. Aang...you know I miss Dad. How could you do this?
"How could you?!" Sokka continued shouting. "Well you can go to the North Pole on your own! I'm going to find Dad!" He didn't skip a beat, turning instantly to trudge away from the scene. Sokka...but, leave Aang? She turned after him, stuck in the middle and unable to move.
"Now Sokka, I think you should-" Bato began but was cut off as her brother spun back to set his furious eyes on his sister.
"Katara, are you with me?" He questioned point blank as silence prevailed. Now she really was in the middle. Am I with you...
She frowned sorrowfully, turning back to lay her eyes upon a quiet, mournful Aang. After all we've been through...this is how you treat me? I guess you never really cared... She closed her eyes firmly, fighting back the emptiness this left her. "I'm with you Sokka."
It was bitter. She turned to head back to the Abbey with her brother, but with every further step nothing but sadness remained. Keeping her eyes peeled to the dirt path ahead of her, she kept a step behind Bato and her brother, walking in silence. Wonderful day indeed... She mocked herself as her eyes misted over, reaching up to forcefully rub off her mark of the brave.
Crossing through the front gate of the Abbey, Bato laid his hand on Sokka's shoulder. Turning to the young warrior, he halted to address him directly. "Now Sokka, are you positive you want to go through with this? He may have been out of line, but he probably has his reasons for his actions."
"Katara and I have already made up our minds. We're going to find Dad." Sokka replied firmly, setting his sharp blue eyes upon the older warrior. Just what are his reasons... Katara's eyes drifted to her feet.
Nobody said a word for several seconds. "I'll inform Superior we'll be leaving her care." The elder warrior finally replied, turning his eyes back to the gate ahead of them. "You two pack up, we'll head out soon."
As the two approached Appa, he let out a low rumbling greeting and turned his large head to face them. Sokka wound around Appa's side to make his way to the saddle, while Katara approached the bison's head.
"Hey Appa..." She stated softly, apologetically. Her right hand fell atop his nose. Closing his eyes Appa lowered his chin to the tiled floor to further place his nose in her grasp. She fought back welling sadness, pressing up against Appa's soft white head.
Leaning against Appa, she remembered their time at Senlin Village. Aang didn't want us to go with him into the Fire Nation because it was dangerous. She continued rubbing Appa's head, confused. He does care...but, then, why this?
"Katara, come pack your things. We'll be leaving in a minute." Sokka called from Appa's saddle. Yeah, I'm coming. Lowering her eyes she broke away from Appa, heading for the saddle. She had the hardest time deciding what to do when she came across their waterbending scroll. Leave this for Aang? Keep it for myself? It is a part of my people...but Aang really needs it. Ugh...
Shortly afterward, they had backpacks loaded with supplies laid out with rations stashed in small side-bags strapped to their sides. It would be a long journey they would be undertaking with Bato, they had to be prepared.
"He's back." She stood upright and turned to the main gate to spot Aang beneath its heavy arches. "Katara, I know how you can be. If he starts being all apologetic, don't cave. We've already made up our minds."
Saying nothing, she averted her eyes to her bags and nodded. Kneeling, she finished tying her final rations to its side, doing her best to ignore how wrong this felt. A minute later Bato stepped out of his room with his own backpack, ready to go. "And here he comes." Sokka stated flatly. Bato? She glanced aside to Sokka, but his eyes were toward Appa.
Rising to her feet she turned around as Aang approached. "Look Aang, we know you're sorry, but we're still leaving to find Dad." Sokka addressed the airbender calmly before he could speak.
Aang only hung his head, lifting his eyes to Katara as he held out a rolled parchment. Aang... "You left this."
"Keep it." Katara replied sadly, having left the waterbending scroll intentionally. "You'll need it more than I will. I already gave it up anyway."
"I know how much it means to you..." Aang took a step closer as he continued to hold it out for her. "Besides, I'll find a master at the North Pole."
Sokka snatched the scroll out of Aang's hands, leaving him to pull back a step in surprise as he answered for both his sister and Aang. "Great, we'll take it then, thanks Aang." Aang's grey eyes turned to Sokka, before drifting to the stone tiles below with a sorrowful frown. Nodding, the young boy turned and headed back for his bison.
Don't think about it... She took the scroll from her brother's hands and slid it into her backpack, latching it closed just as Bato arrived. Silently Bato helped put on her heavy backpack before making his way with Sokka for the front gate. She didn't follow. Instead, she stood still and watched as they left her.Glancing toward Aang, sitting quietly on Appa's head with the reigns in his lap and his eyes to the ground, she turned and walked slowly for him. I can't believe this is happening. Aang lifted his head in seeming excitement, laying his eyes on her curiously as she approached.
"Good luck." She quietly addressed, stopping just ahead of Appa.
"Okay. You too." Aang replied with a sorrowful weight in his tone.
Go Katara. She turned toward the front gate, where both Bato and her brother were patiently waiting on her. Again her eyes drifted to the ground, beginning what would be a long, arduous journey as she approached the two and left everything else behind, restraining herself from looking back.
"Why didn't we just take your boat?" Sokka questioned as they followed the dirt trail into a lush forest.
"The Fire Navy has stepped up activity in the area. It's not safe for a lone Water Tribe vessel to be caught at sea right now." He calmly replied, keeping his attention ahead of the two as they progressed down the trail. "I realize this is going to take a long time to walk across the Earth Kingdom, but it's the safest choice we have."
Katara ran her thumbs along her backpack's straps, lifting them off her shoulders slightly. The distance made walking away from Aang somewhat easier, but the longing to return to him still weighed on her. He kept me from Dad. So why do I still feel so terrible for leaving him?
"Oh. I'm sorry you have to leave the boat your father made behind." Sokka sympathized.
"It served me well, and even allowed a fellow tribe member his rite of passage before leaving it to rest until I may one day return for it again."
I understand how you feel... She pressed her fingers to her neck, where her mother's necklace should have been. Her eyes widened in surprise when she felt a necklace there, until remembering it was the necklace Aang had made for her. Attempting to hide her shock and the hurt this left her, she removed the necklace.
Holding it in her palm, she stared at the flower at its center. Did I really do the right thing? She closed her hand around the necklace, reaching back to stuff it into a pocket of her backpack. "Are you alright?" Sokka questioned her with concern.
"Yeah, I'm okay." I can't just turn around now. She laid her eyes on the back of the older warrior ahead of them, mourning each step that carried her further down this road of no return. I just don't understand. Katara mused in retrospect.
A thought donned on her, actually surprising her enough to lift her head, staring at Bato as she contemplated questioning this. "Bato, does Kyma only offer his guidance to Water Tribe members?"
The older warrior turned an inquisitive eye over his shoulder, his slightly wrinkled face showing hints of curiosity in return. "No. That would be a quite limited view for one known as a Spirit of Guidance. Why do you ask?"
Well... She frowned, her eyes drifting to Bato's feet as they continued their pace. "If you say so. Aang wore his mask this morning, it didn't seem to help him any." She wrapped her fingers around her backpack's straps once again, tugging lightly.
"We may not understand Kyma's guidance, but in the end those he aids will find the path that was meant for them." Bato calmly reminded her, turning away as they continued their walk. Yeah...I guess.
Talking was awkward as lingering doubt and mixed feelings loomed. The only repeating sound to break the silence was the crunch of dirt beneath their shoes. In the distant woodlands to the left of the trail, a wolf's long howl filled the sky.
It struck a chord with Katara, feeling the sorrow in the wolf's tone echo in her own. Apparently everyone felt it also, as all three halted. "That wolf sounds so sad..." She stated, turning mournfully to her brother.
"It's probably wounded." He idly replied before Bato broke in.
"No." Katara turned to face their guide as he set his attention on them. "It's been separated from the pack. I understand that pain. It's how I felt when the Water Tribe warriors had to leave me behind. They were my family, and being apart from them was more painful than my wounds."
She could only frown, not even able to consider just how close to her brother this had hit. She noticed he had actually turned to stare silently toward the Abbey, the path they had left behind. You...you want to go back to him too? "Sokka?" She quietly posed, attempting to gauge her brother's standing on this.
"We need to go back." He replied singly. Thank you... She smiled and straightened herself, stepping after him as he continued. "I want to see Dad, but... helping Aang is where we're needed the most.""You're right." She agreed kindly, encouraging this new choice.
Bato approached the two and laid his hand on each of their shoulders, setting a warm-hearted smile upon them. "Your father will understand. And I know he's proud of you."
"Thanks Bato." Sokka softly welcomed.
"I know where to go from here." He slipped out a rolled parchment, the map with directions to their rendezvous point, and set it in Sokka's hands. "Take this in case you want to find us. I'll leave a message at the rendezvous point."
"Goodbye Bato. It was so wonderful to meet you again." She reached up and laid her hand on his bandaged chest, before leaning in with her brother to both give him a farewell hug.
"Likewise; we'll meet again, I'm certain." He patted their backs, before stepping away from their embrace. "Now get going if you want any chance of seeing your friend again. Farewell!" As he turned around, Katara saw him smirk lightly off the path to his left, muttering. "Well played, Kyma." ...huh? She tilted her head curiously at his back, before joining her brother as he made his way toward the Abbey.
The tall walls of the Abbey again came into view, but Katara's hopes didn't rise all that much. He's probably long gone... She locked her eyes on the distant wall, losing herself to this thought. Walking down the dirt trail, with steep stony banks at either side, she snapped out of this trance when Sokka threw his hand up in front of her face.
Huh? She halted before she would have run into his hand and eyed him in surprise. A heavy thump struck the trail behind her, drawing her and her brother to spin back in curiosity.
A large, brown furred creature that stood two times her height pounded the dirt and loosed a sudden roar, revealing a series of sharp fangs. What is that!? She instantly turned away and fled after her brother, before the beast rounded beside them.
She spun around and pressed her back towards the bank, trembling in terror at this monster. D...Don't eat me! Only now, she caught sight of something peculiar. People were riding it! "So this is your girlfriend." Wait, huh? And one person slid out of the saddle and landed, approaching. Oh no...you again... "No wonder she left, she's way too pretty for you."
Zuko stood boldly in front of her, puffing out his chest with an ever-present sneer. "Where is he?! Where's the Avatar?" He's not going to believe us! What is he going to do? She pulled her arms back in fear, the towering monster behind him heavily intimidating her.
"We split up. He's long gone." Sokka quipped as calmly as if they had been on talking terms.
Zuko obviously took offense, leaning forward to snap at him in retort. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"Pretty stupid." He jested with a smile. Sokka...! She set her eyes on him in panic. "RUN!" Before she had time to even finish hearing his cry, her arm jerked forward as her brother yanked her after him. We'll never outrun that thing! She fretted, yet regardless broke into a full sprint despite the weight of her backpack.
A warm, moist object slammed against the side of her neck as she felt numerous pinpricks like needles rake her skin. "Ah!" She shouted in panic, quickly overcome by a spreading heat that raced through her veins. Both she and Sokka stumbled forward and crashed face-down into the dirt path, sliding to a stop across the barren path.
Wha...I, I can't move! She eyed her brother in fear, unable to even turn her head. "What are we supposed to do now?" Zuko suddenly questioned with haughty irritation.
"It's seeking a different scent...perhaps something that the Avatar held." A welling fear climbed through Katara as the creatures immense muzzle shoved items loose from her brother's backpack. Even breathing loudly mortified her, for fear of attracting this creature's attention as it loudly sniffed, until settling on a low growl. "Got it. Get on; he's on a different trail now."
Zuko seized her brother and hefted him into the air over his shoulder. "Sokka!" Katara called out as he grunted against Zuko's shoulder. "What are you going to do with us?"
"Keep quiet!" Zuko snapped. Standing beside the massive beast, he slung Sokka to land at the back of the creature's saddle.
Zuko turned back, stalking toward Katara. She grimaced but said nothing, knowing in just a moment she would be beside her brother. "Really Zuko; you should be more considerate of your guests." Iroh thoughtfully replied as the creature followed after him.
"I think I'm beginning to understand why she left you." June added coldly, leaning over the saddle.
Why I what...? "We've almost reached the Avatar." Zuko stated as his hands seized her waist, throwing her over his shoulder. Agh...! Though she strained in attempt to kick at him, she couldn't so much as bend a finger. "Think of them as a trade."
...no! No! You can't! If her brow could have knotted, it would have. Thump! "Ugh!" Zuko slung her over the saddle beside her brother, landing flat on her gut as he leapt into the back of the saddle behind Iroh.
"Well Sokka..." She whispered with her chin slapping against the beast's side with every leap. "If Aang really is gone...now what..."
"I don't know..." He whispered back mournfully. "Whatever happens, I'll look after you." Her eyes closed, holding back the urge to cry from the fear she held. Everything rode on Aang being there, and yet, that would in turn cost him his freedom. Though she still didn't expect he would be there. I'm sorry Aang...
Just minutes later the beast crashed through the front gates of the Abbey. The jolting nearly threw her off as her arms helplessly bounced at her sides. Their ride steadied as the beast began to sniff and snort continuously, striding in a spiral in the large open space of the Abbey's tiled courtyard. "What's it doing?!" Zuko bellowed angrily. "It's just going in a circle!"
The creature suddenly lurched upright. Katara slipped helplessly from the saddle, falling swiftly for the stone tiles below. "Aah!" She couldn't even brace herself before she collided in a rough tumble on the ground with a heavy thud, falling limp to her stomach.
What happened!? Her throbbing chin pressed firmly to the tile as she pivoted her eyes to the air. An orange kite sailed overhead. "Aang!" She smiled broadly as the woman with Zuko demanded her beast to rise.
"UP!" The lady snapped a large whip to the ground and bounded onto the creature's saddle, darting out of sight after Aang. You stayed... She let out a heavy breath, relaxing as soon as she saw him, certain he wouldn't fail.
Zuko clambered to his feet and charged past her, just as hands seized her from behind and hauled her back into their grip. Now what? She feared the worst, until she noticed Sokka being dragged too by a fellow nun.
A moment later Katara's helper leaned her against the wall before the two nuns slipped away. From her new vantage point, she witnessed Aang and Zuko begin trading blows. Aang deflected fireballs and lunged forward with blasts of air, enhanced with the full swing of his staff. These lunges lasted only a moment before Zuko closed in on Aang and knocked his staff out of his grip.
They nearly danced, spinning beside each other's bodies and side-stepping each other's blows. Both let out a shout that echoed into the forest as they collided their elements head-on, resulting in a massive fiery explosion that Katara actually felt shake her. When the smoke cleared, they were nowhere to be seen.
Katara sighed and tipped her head forward, ignoring the battle that broke out between Appa and the beast. Come on Katara, wake up, get out of this...I need to help! She closed her eyes, attempting her best to force herself to recover. Her limbs were already beginning to tingle.
A minute later was earning her success. "I'm starting to get some feeling back." Yeah, me too. Katara lifted her head and forced a smile, weakly setting her eyes on her brother. A loud blast shook the wall she was leaning on, followed by a pile of broken wood and shingles cascading down in a pile of dust.
Katara closed her eyes and partly leaned back to press against the wall instinctively. Once it settled, she had been fortunate, not a single plank had struck her, however a great majority fell on her brother. "Ow..." He bemoaned. She frowned sadly at him, unable to help. What have you done to be so unlucky...?
She closed her eyes again as her head swam, sensation overwhelming her now that she could feel again. Willing herself to focus, her legs twitched as she fought them to life once again, lifting her to lean upright against the wall. However, she fought against weariness, tipping forward and catching her forehead with her fingers.
A nun outstretched her hand before Katara, holding a small vial below her nose as a strong odor suddenly caught her attention. Hm? She quickly discovered the nun was attempting to help her rouse, and inhaled sharply.
The power of the scent was so strong it nearly made her eyes water and sent a shiver down her spine. Gah, nasty! She straightened herself upright, ignoring this as she stood beside her brother and glanced toward the battle.
Appa had fallen, lying on his side in the middle of the courtyard. "That thing sees with its nose." Sokka mused. "Let's give him something to look at."
"The perfume?" Mother Superior questioned, turning to Sokka curiously as he nodded.
Oh, you're clever Sokka! She smiled wryly. "Katara, you should be able to waterbend perfume...right? We'll dump it out for you and you just do your thing. That monster won't know which way is up!" Aang was backed against the wall, dodging fire blasts from Zuko and lashes from the beast's paralytic tongue. No you don't. She smiled with pleasure, giving a nod before charging to stand readily just yards behind the beast.
Okay; just like yesterday...all I have to do is raise the water and drop it. She scowled fervently toward Aang's adversaries, gliding her arms behind her as she lowered herself into position. Give me that perfume guys, come on!
The fragrant fluid filled the courtyard as numerous basins were emptied of their contents. Now standing in the midst of the sea of perfume, Katara tipped forward and lowered her arm, only sharpening her scowl as she kept her eyes on her target; the creature between her and Aang.
She swung her arm forward and stood upright, bringing a thin wave of perfume ahead of her. Alternating swinging one arm then other forward, she lifted a series of waves that intertwined with one another in a sweet-scented dance.
Zuko thrust a fire blast which Aang ducked just in time to avoid. Hold on! She had gathered an unsteady cloud of water above her that swayed in and out. Her arms tingled, her fingers felt warm; she knew she couldn't keep this up much longer. But she didn't have to.
Altering her motions to swing more directly toward her goal, the cloud began to convulse and twist away from her into the air. And...there! She broke free, leaning backward as she held both palms extended forward, releasing control of the perfume.
Splash! Her harmless waterbent perfume cloud engulfed Aang's assailants. Zuko hacked and shook his head, squeezing at his black ponytail as the beast sniffed erratically. Aang stood at the ready beside the wall, staring with confusion at what had just happened. Did it work? Nothing's happening... She straightened herself, standing upright as she waited impatiently for a reaction.
Then it happened. The beast began wailing as it jolted back, throwing its paralytic tongue defensively without guidance, slapping Zuko clear across his face. Ha! Yes! Aang leapt to the sky and quickly landed beside Katara, turning to face the mayhem just as the female with Zuko became paralyzed with a blow to her face from her beast's tongue.
The Prince's Uncle, Iroh, bolted for the lady. "June! Nooo!" He threw his arms out, seizing her as they both fell to the ground in a pile. Katara pulled back slightly as the beast went wild, charging through the courtyard before smashing its head into a perfume basin. Regaining itself, it bolted over buildings and ran into the forest in a frenzy.
Tension left her as she exhaled softly. It's over... Glancing ahead, her eyes softened as she watched her friend, Aang, heading for his staff that lay discarded on the ground from his battle. Her feet carried her after him, catching up as he reclaimed his staff. You saved us, again. She laid her hand on his shoulder, smiling to him as he glanced over his shoulder and returned her warm smile before turning to for Sokka.
"Thanks guys." Aang stated softly as he re-settled his eyes on the defeated trio by the wall.
"No, thank you." Katara retorted, rubbing his shoulder before dropping her hand back to her side.
"Avatar!" Mother Superior addressed as she hastily crossed the threshold to stand before the three children. "Please leave your attackers in our care, we are sending word to the Earth Kingdom military right now for them to come apprehend these three and bring them to justice. You needn't stay for this."
Aang frowned, turning his head as his eyes soaked in their surroundings. Katara followed his eyes and likewise frowned as he apologized. "I'm sorry for what happened to your home."
"Think nothing of it, Avatar. We will make do with what we have and restore what was lost. Now please, continue on your journey and let us handle this situation for you." The Superior slipped her palms into her sleeves, bowing her head forward with a warm smile. "It would allow us a great pleasure to assist you."
Aang bowed his head in return, lowering his staff into his hands as he answered warmly. "Thank you for showing us such great hospitality. It will not be forgotten."
Rousing Appa with a handful of smelling salts, they began loading his saddle in preparation for flight. "Uh...we kind of lost our belongings somewhere along the way when Zuko captured us." Sokka stated as he dropped to his knees at the back of the saddle, glancing down to Mother Superior and a few nuns by her side. "Could we, you know, have some supplies?"
Sokka! Katara scowled. These people just had their home trashed! "Are these yours?" Superior held her palm out toward approaching nuns who lifted backpacks for Sokka. "We found them by our gate."
"Yes!" Sokka lunged over the side of the saddle, gripping the bags as he hefted them over the saddle's edge. "I'm not so unlucky after all!"
"And for you, young lady." Mother Superior lifted a bundle wrapped in black cloth for her to grab. "Please take these as a token of gratitude for your efforts in this war and support for the Avatar. Farewell!"
Seizing the black bundle, Katara lifted it carefully and passed it to her brother. "Thank you for all you've done for us!"
"Yip-yip!" Aang cried aloud as Appa took to the air. Katara glanced to the defeated trio in the courtyard below as they ascended. How do they keep finding us...even here! Well it ends now, they're going to prison. She pulled her legs up, leaning against the side of the saddle as a warm smile overcame her. And that's all because of Aang.
The wind whipped through her hair, turning to set her radiant eyes upon the back of her best friend. Never. I will never doubt you again. She couldn't break her smile as Aang quietly questioned without even turning back to face her. "So...where do we go?"
With you. "We're getting you to the North Pole," she said merrily.
"Yeah." Sokka added coolly as Katara turned to face him. "We've lost too much time as it is."
Aang gripped the edge of the saddle, pulling himself up to them. "Don't you want to see your father?""Of course we do Aang." Sokka responded plainly. "But you're our family. And right now, you need us more."
"And we need you." She added thoughtfully, as Sokka's words just weren't enough to settle with her. Aang beamed a glowing smile back to her instantly, rising to sit upright.
However his demeanor altered quickly. Slumping over the saddle's front, he addressed her sadly. "I wish I could give you a little piece of home Katara." He dropped his head, burying his chin behind his arms as his eyes drifted up to her. "Something to remind you..."
We're back together. That's enough. "I'll be okay." She attempted to say plainly, though a trace of sorrow lingered helplessly as this reminded her of her mother's necklace.
"Still!" He excitedly called out as he lifted his head. "Just a little trinket..." Hm? She turned back to him curiously; he had something on his mind. "Maybe something like..." He thrust his arm high in the air for her with a broad smile, proudly dangling her mother's necklace before her eyes. "This?"
"Aang!" She exclaimed with elation, leaning forward to quickly take her necklace back. "How'd you get that?!" Latching it once again to her neck, she felt at home once again, just as Aang had suggested for her.
"Zuko asked me to be sure I got to you." Aang joked, closing his eyes tightly with a broad smile. You...you took it right off of him!
She stared at him in awe, tipping her head over her shoulder and idly stroking her cheek. "Ooh, that's so sweet of Zuko..." She wistfully teased. Slipping her eyes shut for a moment she continued merrily. "Would you give him a kiss for me when you see him?"
"Sure!" Aang retorted with jest, still holding his eyes shut clearly enjoying himself. Oh Aang... She inwardly laughed to herself, adoring his attitude. And here's one for you. She rose to her knees and leaned for him immediately, laying a hand on the saddle's edge.
Gently leaning in, her eyes closed as she pressed her lips gently against his unsuspecting cheek, vocally sounding her kiss before she pulled away. Aang sheepishly twiddled his thumbs, his eyes idly staring away from her with a soft blush.
She smiled with satisfaction, turning her eyes off of him as she laid her fingers on her necklace and let out a thoughtful sigh. At last...thank you Aang. It was now she sighted her brother staring at her smugly from the back of the saddle. "...what?" He simply rolled his eyes and slumped back into the saddle, dropping his head against the saddlebags.
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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