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|The Deserter (Part 1)|
22-The Deserter (Part 1)
Author notes Edit
The ATLA episode had a few glaring goofs at the start that I tried to cover.
- They're flying...yet they spontaneously land to read a sign when they should be able to see the town from the air?
- When they're leaving the signpost...they're walking toward Appa? And even Airbending to land on Appa? The very next scene they're walking, not flying. So...what gives?
- Where did those cloaks spontaneously appear from, is there a Santa Claus in A:TLA that just so happened to be flying on his secret Flying Bison that just dropped off presents - that being disguises? But wait, why are there only TWO black cloaks...leaving Aang out? Sigh.
Katara held Aang’s map firmly against the saddle to keep the wind from disturbing it. Glancing over the saddle’s edge she frowned in disgust, dropping her chin against its leather surface. Nothing but an expansive forest lay below, broken only by a stream and grown over fields. “I think the map has to be wrong. We’re in the right spot but there’s no town here at all!”
“Let me see that.” Sokka scooted across the saddle on his knees. Pulling the map away from her, he gave it a quick once over before joining her attention over the saddle’s edge. “No; it’s just old.” He pointed toward the overgrown field Katara had ignored. “See that? It looks like it used to be farmland. I’ll bet that’s where the village used to be.”
“Huh.” Katara wondered aloud, peering over Appa’s side toward the distant field. That’s one thing about you Sokka…you’re good at tracking and getting around.
“Hey, Aang!” Sokka called toward their guide at the reigns. “Take Appa down here, I’ll take a look around and see what I can find.”
“Yep, this definitely used to be farmland.” Sokka mused as he sifted through a pile of brambles, gently pushing aside the vines to avoid their thorns.
“Are there any people still around? How could a whole town just…disappear?” Katara questioned curiously, though busying herself with unfolding the black bundle given to her by the nuns.
“It didn’t.” Sokka stood upright, stretching his arm out to swing it slowly along a path that apparently only he could see. “There’s a trail that leads into the woods. It’s probably that way.”
How does he do it? Finishing unfolding what she thought was a black blanket, a collection of small bottles clanked together and fell to the ground. “Huh?”
“Oh hey, is that the perfume they made?” Aang exclaimed as he scooped one up to read its cover aloud. “Floral Delight: crafted by the Sisterhood of Clemency.”
“Let me look!” Katara snatched the bottle out of his hand quickly, Sokka doing the same for the black bundle she had in her other hand. Popping the cap of the bottle, she circled it under her nose to enjoy the sweet-scented aroma like a blossoming orchard. Oh that’s good stuff. She smiled helplessly, enraptured at the very smell of it.
“What?” Sokka exclaimed in disgust. “They only gave us cloaks and perfume? Where’s the food!?”
It’s always food with you. “I guess the cloaks can help if we get caught in the rain or something.” Katara propped her hands of her hips and leaned forward to press a point forward sternly. “Just be grateful they gave us anything.” She emphasized, straightening herself as her voice softened. “They lost a lot for us.”
Returning her attention to the narrow bottle in her hand, she hastily dabbed the perfume on and rubbed it in. Sokka bunched up the cloaks he held, tossing them up into the saddle. “Wow.” Aang exclaimed, drawing her to lift her blue eyes to him. “That smells really nice.” He grinned broadly as Sokka trudged past them with a heavy frown and interjected immediately.
“It’s just common sense to supply needs and not wants. I would have thought nuns would understand that!” I guess he has a point… Katara frowned at the thought, lowering her arms.
“Hey!” Aang spun around in sharp denial. “Monks and nuns can have fun too! I have plenty of wants.”
Sokka threw an awkward look over his shoulder, arching an eyebrow to Aang. “Right. Anyway…let’s explore this trail out and see if it comes to a town like I think it will.” Katara smiled lightheartedly, finding her brother and Aang’s display humorous. Capping her perfume bottle, she followed after both friend and family.
After some minutes of walking the trail opened up to a lush pathway lit by the evening sun. Katara found herself enjoying this little expedition, observing how the golden rays lit the boughs of the trees beside the path.
Momo appeared to love it as well, carelessly flitting to and fro amidst the forest’s branches. Sokka stepped back beside her, helping himself to a bag of snacks they had taken from the Outlook Inn at Makapu. You were right Sokka. She mused to herself as a sign came into view down the trail.
“This should give us a good idea what’s around here.” She smiled pleasantly, approaching the tall signpost that stood nearly two and a half times her size.
“See if you can find a menu.” Sokka idly responded. “I’m starving.”
Aang lunged past her and pressed his fingertip to an extravagant poster on the sign. “I bet we’ll find something to eat here! The Fire Days Festival.” He ran his finger across the poster as he continued reading it aloud. “Fire Nation cultural exhibits, jugglers, benders, magicians…” He stood back and turned to her, his excitement was somewhat infectious. “This would be a great place for me to study some real firebenders!” Oh boy. Study firebenders… She didn’t share his enthusiasm any longer.
“You might want to rethink that. Look at this.” Sokka half-heartedly stated from the opposite side. Aang sped over as Katara slowly rounded the sign after him, agreeing with Sokka already.
“Hey! A poster of me!” Aang shouted merrily. That can’t be good.
“A wanted poster.” Sokka chided as the young monk pulled the flier from the sign. “This is bad.”
Katara stepped beside Aang, glancing down at the poster he now proudly held. Whoa. She straightened herself. “I think we better keep moving.” Setting her eyes on Aang, he returned her attention.
“I have to learn firebending at some point. And this could be my only chance to watch some masters up close.” A firebending master… She dipped her head, lowering her eyes mournfully to the ground.
As much as I don’t like firebending; you’re right…when could you learn firebending if not now? “I guess we could go check it out.” She stated thoughtfully with a slight shrug.
“What?” Sokka obviously did not appreciate her suddenly singing to Aang’s tune. He crossed abruptly to stand ahead of her, holding his arms wide in protest. “You want to walk into a Fire Nation town where they’re all fired up with all their…y’know, fire?”
“We’ll wear disguises.” She defended without a care, instantly stepping around her brother to head for Appa. “And if it looks like trouble, we’ll leave.” Aang had already reached Appa, dropping from the sky to land on his head, just as she was halfway there.
“Hold up!” Sokka demandingly called out just as she reached Appa. “No, we can’t just go flying into the Fire Nation festival!” She glanced over her shoulder as her brother nearly squatted, imitating Aang’s height mockingly. “Why not just walk in shouting ‘I’m the Avatar’!?”
Oh stop being rude, even though you’re right. She turned back to Appa and leapt up, climbing into the saddle as Aang thoughtfully responded. “Oh yeah; you’re probably right. Looks like we’re going on foot.” Katara ignored this, either way she had plans she was attending to, as in the next few moments she held bundled cloaks with a smile.
“Katara?” Her brother addressed her. She stuffed the cloaks out of sight in a deep pocket inside her outfit before climbing back to the ground.
“Disguises…seriously?” Sokka crossed his arms, taunting her just a minute after continuing down the trail. “Where are we going to get disguises?”
“They’re having a festival. I’m sure nobody will pay attention to us.” She responded plainly, barely even turning to face him. “And we already have our disguises.”
A mischievous grin crept over her quickly, shooting her eyes in his direction. “I’ll show you when we’re closer.”
After some time of walking, Sokka had convinced them they should get off the trail as Appa would cause them nothing but trouble if he were seen. With her brother’s expert guidance, they eventually broke free of the forest and approached a steep embankment, beyond which stood a walled town.
This is it. She slipped her hand into her outfit, seizing their disguises secretly. “Well there you have it.” Sokka exclaimed dryly with a wave of his hand. Aang however kept walking, passing the two of them with a broad grin blanketing his face. “So what’s the plan? How are we going to sneak into a town full of fire-happy warmongers?”
Her sly grin returned. “This.” She extended a hooded cloak for her brother instantly. What? Oh shoot! Her smile fell immediately; there were only two cloaks. Sokka seized the black cloak he was given, gluing his eyes to it and lifting it upright with a smug frown.
What about Aang? She turned away and followed after him quickly, wondering what to do. Just as she reached him, he stopped at the drop-off beside the steep bank and turned to face Appa and Momo. “You guys stay out of sight here while we go to the festival.”
Wait, they understood that? Momo took to the air and dove into a bush, while Appa scooted closer and flopped down behind it, covering only his nose. Cute. She smiled at this, turning in preparation of telling Aang of her dilemma. “Ready disguises!” He suddenly commanded. Oh. I guess you have an idea!
Satisfied with this new discovery, she draped her dark blue cloak over herself. Her dark disguise brought the feeling of mystery and allure, finding this quite enjoyable. She reached behind her, seizing the dark hood before snapping it over her head.
Sokka had likewise stylized himself with his new attire. Finished, the two of them turned to face Aang. What…do you think you’re doing? She arched a brow, staring at his back as he hunched over and fought with his shirt. Suddenly he sprung upright and faced them, bearing a ridiculously goofy grin with his shirt collar pulled up over his head.Oh, Aang! Her brother mockingly spoke out while she lifted her hand to her mouth, unable to help softly chuckling over Aang’s adorable, carefree behavior. “It’s like you’re a whole different person.”
“Let’s go!” Aang threw his arm in the air and hardly waited, making his way down the bank for the trail.
I wonder what it’s like inside. As the trio approached the town, her eyes scanned the town’s immense wall and open wooden gate somewhat anxiously. I’ve never seen a Fire Nation town before. “Notice: risk of burning or death. Enter at your own risk.” Sokka spoke slowly as if reading a sign.
Her forehead knotted. Seriously? Quickly her gaze scaled the wall to the tiered archway overhead and then back down the wooden gate with an arched brow. “Sokka, where do you see that?”
“Nowhere, it’s just common sense.” He shrugged half-heartedly at her in response. Ugh.
“Relax Sokka.” Aang turned his hooded face, shrugging his arms forward nonchalantly. “Sure we’re taking a risk…but learning to firebend is worth it!”
“Ssh!” Katara threw her finger to her lips as they passed through the tall gates. “We don’t want to look out of pl…” She stopped mid-sentence as the roar of a crowd erupted in the streets ahead of them. Uh-oh. Observing the crowd, everyone looked quite different than she had expected.
They walked silently down the street, approaching an open square filled to the brim with Fire Nation citizens. Of everyone in the crowd, she couldn’t see any faces, only masks. It was during this distraction that something twice her size bolted into view. A dragon! Here?!
Her mouth dropped in horror as she staggered back, throwing her hand to Aang’s shoulder and cowering behind him a moment. Oh…it’s not. She spotted numerous people’s legs beneath it as it streaked by madly through the crowd. But by now she was thoroughly freaked, the three of them the only ones without masks in the crowd.
“I think we need some new disguises…” She muttered, slipping her fingers off of Aang’s shoulder.
“Where are we gonna get masks like that?!” Sokka posed sorely. I don’t k-
“Get your genuine Fire Festival masks here!” A shopkeeper’s voice rose above the crowd just to her left. What a life saver! She spun back behind her brother, darting quickly to the stand with Aang at her side.
“How much are the masks, sir?” Please be free. We don’t have anything!
“This is a special day little lady! You and your friends help yourselves. Everything at the festival is free to enjoy.” The man gave her a laugh, bowing to her. This might actually be fun. She smiled warmly as she glanced over the many-shaped face masks, getting into the Fire Nation spirit.
Having found a simple, yet stylish, painted lady’s face mask with blush for its cheeks and chin, she slipped it over her head and peeped out the eye-holes. Her warm breath gathered behind the mask, warming her face. Well this is new. This is what Fire Nation citizens like to do?
She glanced to her left to check out Aang’s mask. It matched his outfit, being red and yellow, yet it had a horribly depressing face. Eh… She turned to Sokka; his mask was of a large toothy-grinned blue face. What did you two do, trade places? This has got to change.
Without even asking she snatched Sokka’s mask off his head, replaced Aang’s mask with it and slapped the frowning mask on her brother’s face. Much better. She smiled at her achievement, turning to walk off with Aang while Sokka straggled behind a step.
Ropes stretched from the rooftops all around her to a column at the square’s center. Numerous lanterns, each holding a small flickering flame, lined the rope and lit the entire court beautifully. “Hey there’s some food!” Aang suddenly called out, lifting a finger toward a stand.
“Finally.” Sokka retorted; bolting past the two of them for whatever delicacy awaited him. “What do ya have?”
“Flaming fire flakes… best in town.” An older, gray-haired man kindly replied as he extended a small bag in his hand. I think I’ll pass.
“I’ll take ‘em!” This ought to be rich. She smiled patiently, only watching as her brother delved into the bag and stuffed the flakes into his mouth without hesitation. He even went so far as to simply dump the bag’s contents into his mouth!
It only took a moment before the screams started. She smirked as he tore off his mask. “Oh! Hot! Hot!”
“Flaming Fire Flakes.” She quipped matter-of-factly, crossing her arms. “Hot. What do ya know?” She added her final tease, tilting her head slightly as she stared at her brother’s back.
“Hey! Look at this!” Aang excitedly shouted toward a crowd of children.
The crowd had gathered, mostly seated, in front of a stand with red curtains blocking sight of whatever was inside. She smiled playfully and stepped up beside Aang. “Let’s go check it out.”
“Care for another bag?” The older shopkeeper called after Sokka with a hearty belly-laugh.
“No thanks, I’m good…” Sokka weakly wheezed in reply.
She approached with Aang to stand behind the gathered crowd, peering over the children’s heads for the stand beyond them. Just as they stopped behind the crowd, the red curtains sailed away to reveal an empty room. Katara arched an eyebrow curiously as a small figurine of a person slid into view where the curtains had been. A puppet show? Perhaps the Fire Nation is actually more light-hearted than I anticipated.
“Don’t worry loyal citizens!” The puppet bellowed in a loud male voice. “No one can surprise the Fire Lord!” Just as it finished this statement, an earthbending puppet rose into view just beside the Fire Lord puppet, holding what resembled a boulder over its head. Uh…
The crowd of children panicked, ducking their head away. “Oh no!” – “Look out!” Forget I ever thought that. She dejectedly considered just as the Fire Lord puppet spun aside and belched a billowing plume of fire into the earthbender puppet, setting it aflame and melting it immediately.
This display, however, sent a cold chill down her spine. What a horrible way to go! She shuffled back, spinning away to dart after her brother, Aang having already bolted ahead of him. Behind her a chorus of cheers filled the air. I can’t believe they actually like that! “Aang, hold on! Where are we going?”
“I don’t know. But there’s a big crowd, so it must be good!” He was right. She trailed behind her brother and weaved through the crowd for a grand stage they had gathered around.
“Knowing the Fire Nation? It’s probably an execution.” Sokka quipped in return to Aang. Sokka! Don’t be an idiot! She twisted her mask from side to side, peering at the citizens beside her in hopes no one paid much attention to him.
No, they weren’t even looking. A sudden spout of flame lit the crowd, stealing away her attention as she forgot that fear. Fireballs danced around a tall man on the stage, dipping and leaping as if they were living beasts of their own without control. They encircled the man to the point she could hardly see him as he danced to and fro amidst the flames. A…A firebending master… She stood silent, enraptured as the flames ran together mid-air and exploded. Oddly, doves appeared out of nowhere and took to the skies.
The crowd clapped and whistled, cheering wildly for the man. “I gotta learn that trick!” Aang shouted as he whipped his mask up. Well… Her stomach turned a knot imagining Aang doing that. I guess you have to at some point.
The firebending magician clad in white took a bow to his welcoming audience. “Thank you! For my next trick, I need a volunteer from the audience!”
“Oh, me, me!” Aang muttered loudly as his hand danced in the air, begging for attention. What? No way! No!
“What do you think you’re doing?!” Sokka whispered harshly, seizing Aang’s other arm.
“I want to get a closer look!”
No, that’s too risky! She leaned slightly toward Aang, lifting her hand beside her mask as she whispered to him. “It’s better that we don’t attract any attention to ourselves.”
“How about you little lady?” Her eyes widened as she noticed the master was pointing directly at her. M-me?!
She just realized her hand was up and grimaced. “Uuh…” Backing away, she held her palm up in refusal, shaking her head as she nearly trembled with the sudden apprehension that overcame her.
“Aw she’s shy.” The magician teased with a smile and wave of his hand. “Let’s give her some encouragement folks!”
No let’s not! Oh gosh! The crowd cheered and clapped as an unknown hand braced her back. Hey! With a hard shove, she helplessly walked with the pressure toward the magician on the stage. He knelt down and, with an immense smile, seized her arm and prepared to lift her. She turned her fearful eyes back to Aang just before being hefted into the air. Help…
Leading her to the center of the stage, directly in the middle of four immense columns housing great flames at their tops, he scooted a chair just behind her. “This next trick is called –” He popped his head up beside her shoulder and shouted for the crowd. She gripped her arms together and turned to him, leaning away in fright. “Taming the dragon!”
He laid his hands directly on her shoulder, pushing gently as he guided her to fall into the chair. “You will be my captured princess.” He knelt to her side and gently rested his fingers below her chin. I…I kind of am!
He whipped out a durable red cloth, winding it around her and pulling it taut. What are you doing to me?! Her arms pressed firmly against her sides, pinned by the binding he had applied. She was trapped, tied to the chair, unable to even squirm. The man stepped toward the center of the stage when she, looking past him to the crowd, noticed something. The crowd wore red and white. She still, beneath her cloak, bore Water Tribe blue.
Her mouth parted as her heart iced over. Does he know?He danced his arms into the air, springing to life the awaiting fire atop the four surrounding columns. They sped into the air and joined, circling the stage before swooping down ahead of her. She, paralyzed, stared with her mouth agape at the streaking trail of flame that stretched as long as the stage. Now she really was scared.
“Don’t worry young maiden!” He playfully shouted. “I will tame this fiery beast!”
He shook his right wrist, snapping forward as a thin whip of fire traveled the distance, seizing the trailing fire at its front. Following the meandering flames, she noticed it had the distinct appearance of a dragon’s head.
It whipped over the stage to her left furiously. “It’s too strong, I can’t hold it!” Is this all a trick? What’s he going to do?
The beast raced overhead of the crowd. “The rope – it’s breaking!” Just then, he loosed his hand, the trailing line of fire vanquishing from sight. He did the unthinkable, cupping his hands together as his firebending mastery gained control over the beast, then swung back directly for her. Oh gosh! He’s going to … no!
The flaming dragon arched down, racing for the bound princess. Its blazing inferno heated the stage, her eyes reflecting the impending fire. “Aah!” She trembled in terror, trapped, closing her eyes with the expectation of coming pain.
A mighty gale roared, shaking her in her seat amidst its sudden ferocity. Huh? She reopened her eyes, glancing through the holes of her mask. One of the columns shattered to the wind, blasting apart as pieces sailed behind her.
There he stood. Aang. She simply gazed at his back, standing protectively between her and the crowd. Her eyes trailed to the crowd, who all booed and shook their fists at Aang’s interruption. Not good… They had, despite her best wishes, become the complete spectacle of the festival.
She turned her attention to her brother as he leapt to the stage and ran to her side, kneeling to quickly work at removing the bindings holding her. “Great, just great.” He whispered crossly behind his troubled mask. “Now we’re in a whole heap of trouble! If they find out–”
“Hey!” A man from the crowd lifted his voice above the jeers. “That kid’s the Avatar!” Yeah…that… She exchanged a look of fear with Sokka, standing from her prison-chair. Pulling off her mask, she lowered her hands and stared fearfully at a group of Fire Nation soldiers charging the stage, spears at the ready.
“I think it’s time to go.” Sokka retorted, but she was lost. Where? We’re in the middle of town, where can we go?
“Follow me!” Huh? She turned behind her, spotting a cloaked man with a black mask covering his lower face standing beside a destroyed wall. “I can get ya out of here!” He urged, waving them on.
“There they are!” The soldiers shouted, leaping onto the stage just feet from them. Fire Nation soldiers with spears, or a mysterious masked man? She turned and sprinted past Sokka, falling in behind Aang as he took the lead. Masked man it is!
A loud explosion sounded behind her as the man bolted ahead of them. An entire crowd of citizens simply stood silently, watching as the foursome fled like rabbit-rats. The shopkeeper selling flaming fire flakes carried a tray of his specialty into their path just in time for the masked man to slap it out of his hands, barging past him. Oh, sorry sir! Gotta keep moving! She didn’t even glance back as she passed him however. “Over there!” A deep voice shouted from the crowd.
“I’m calling Appa!” Aang shouted. Yes, please!
“I hope he can really hear that bison whistle!” Sokka bellowed madly. Me too!
“This way!” The mysterious man shouted, ducking into a nearby alley. Katara mindlessly followed as the three of them gave pursuit. She slowed to a halt as the man threw his arms up and stopped in his tracks. “Okay, not this way!”
We’re cut off! She stepped away, spinning back just as the mysterious man chucked something small into the midst of soldiers, followed by another loud explosion. The narrow alley led back to where they had just come so they took the only remaining alley, a path to their right.
Watching behind her; she spotted spear-wielding Fire Nation soldiers round the corner and charge after them. Shaking from fear and panting from running, she staggered to a stop before she would have plowed into Aang. Don’t sto- Oh… Before them stood a tall wooden cart, completely blocking off the exit to the alley. Oh no…
Turning around, the four faced a wall of spears that slowly advanced step by step. Swallowing back her fear, she backed away toward the cart, pinned. Just then, as the threatening spears drew closer, a great shadow darkened her vision. “Appa, down here!” Aang called out for his long lasting friend. Overjoyed, she watched as Appa whipped his enormous body around to face them. He touched down in the narrow corridor with his front two legs before slamming his tail to the ground, causing an enormous airbending blast to heave countless Fire Nation bodies into the air.
“Alright! Let’s go!” Aang airbent himself swiftly to land atop Appa’s head. Don’t leave without us! Her eyes widened, sprinting with the mysterious man and Sokka to race each other to the saddle.
She wasted no time throwing herself into the saddle as if her life depended on it, which it probably did. Her world spun a circle as she fell into a tumble, catching herself at the saddle’s front just as Appa leapt into the air.
The mysterious man bit the end of an explosive, jerking it away as a flame burst from its top. What are you doing with that here?! Her mouth parted in surprise, though thankfully he leaned back hurled it down to their gathering foes.Bang! Katara jumped in shock as racing streams of light blared into the sky all around her. What’s going on!? What is that? What did you do! Bang! Louder explosions echoed like thunderclaps all around her, reverberating through her body. But this time, it was not fear she felt.
Her mouth remained half-open, gazing in awe at the myriad of colors dancing through the air before her very eyes. It’s…it’s beautiful… She could only watch in wonder, stunned at the golden, lavender, pink and white bursts that reflected in her sapphire eyes amidst the dark night. “Nice touch setting off the fireworks.” Aang quipped merrily. So that’s fireworks. Beautiful. Her eyes drifted to the man as he flipped back his hood, revealing dark brown hair.
“You seem to really know your explosives.” Sokka mused.
“I’m familiar.” He jovially quipped, turning back to show his face, complete with stubble.
“You’re a Fire Nation soldier!” Sokka bellowed at his sudden discovery. Katara quietly gasped, parting her mouth in shock.
“Was! My name’s Chey.” He smiled pleasantly, calmly, which assured Katara he was of no trouble. At this Katara shared a glance of surprise with her brother. “Hey, let’s get back on the ground. Jeong Jeong would have my head if I led trouble straight to him.”
“So were you following us?” Sokka questioned sardonically as Chey threw the last log onto the firewood between the four of them.
“Yes I was.” Chey nonchalantly replied, tossing an incendiary stick into the gathered wood that instantly exploded into a soft orange flame. Whoa! Katara jerked back a moment, throwing a hand in front of her face as she watched the flickering flames. “It wasn’t that hard since you guys and the Avatar stood out in the crowd.”
“Hold on a second.” Sokka waved his hand in objection. “You knew we were with the Avatar right away? Why are you helping us?!” Sokka, calm down! He just saved our lives…
“Let me tell you a story.” Chey began wistfully, dropping to sit cross-legged at his corner of the fire. “I serve a man…more than a man really he’s a myth. But he’s real, a living legend, Jeong Jeong the deserter. He was a Fire Nation general…or wait – was he an admiral.” The man hesitated, scratching at the back of his head curiously.
“He was very highly ranked, we get it!” Sokka quipped back sharply, waving a stick he was holding out.
“YEAH!” Wow. Chey shouted back in reply so suddenly Sokka dropped his stick. “Way up there!” This guy seems to be off his rocker… Katara turned to share a glance with Aang, testing if he felt the same. You think so too? The both turned back as Chey continued. “But he couldn’t take the madness anymore. He’s the first person to ever leave the army, and live!” He dropped his tone, speaking softly in retrospect. “I’m the second but you don’t get to be a legend for that. That’s okay though.”
So there are people among the Fire Nation military that don’t agree with them. “Jeong Jeong’s a firebending genius! Some say he’s mad…but he’s not…he’s enlightened.”
“You mean there’s a firebender out here who’s not with the Fire Lord?!” Aang exclaimed excitedly, leaping to his feet. “We’ve got to go see him! He can train me!”
“We’re not going to go find some crazy firebender!” Sokka rejected hastily. Now, I don’t know, Sokka…
“He’s not crazy! He’s a genius!” Chey argued as he rose to his feet as well. “And he’s the perfect person to train the Avatar. That’s why I followed you into the festival!”
“Look.” Sokka in turn rose to his feet, leaving Katara alone still sitting. “Thanks for the help, but we’re leaving for the North Pole in the morning.” Have you even thought this through, Sokka? The North Pole’s not going anywhere…
“Sokka.” Aang pleaded. “This could be my only chance to meet a firebending master…who would actually be willing to teach me.” Exactly…
She stood now, calmly pressing forward, outnumbering Sokka. “It can’t hurt just to talk to him.”
“That’s what you said about going to the festival!” Sokka exclaimed lividly, throwing his hands down. “Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me!?” Sokka, think about Aang! Hey! He turned instantly to storm off, but nearly ran into a spear that lunged for his neck. Sokka!
He shouted in astonishment, jerking back to avoid its sharp tip. Katara gasped in surprise as she spun to stand back to back with Chey, spotting three other spear-wielding forest-dwellers leap from the trees and surround her, spears reaching to pin her in submission.
The man at the head of the trio lifted his straw hat to set his rigid features upon her and Chey. “Don’t move.” He sternly voiced, running his eyes across their four captives.
“Wait, this is all a simple misunderstanding. We’re not here to cause you any trouble.” Aang explained in front of two spear-wielders threatening him. As he did so; he, Sokka, Katara and Chey all backed up until they were clustered together and surrounded by spears.
“No. But you have brought it. Now walk, we decide what to do with you.” The presumed leader stepped aside, raising his arm down a trail to his left yet keeping his spear angled toward them with his right. “Walk!”
The man’s vicious shout sent a chill through Katara, cringing as her hands fell on both Sokka’s and Aang’s shoulder. “No worries, all is well! We’ll just go on a little stroll that’s all.” Chey rambled out before pressing on, twisting his upper body left and right with his hands defensively up in the air. “Off we go, right?”
This man really is crazy…maybe Sokka was right again after all. We should have just left for the North Pole. She gingerly slipped her feet forward one after the other, trailing after Aang as Sokka followed behind her while muttering to himself.
Their assailants led them down the sleepy woodland trail, quickly putting out the fire that they had lit only moments earlier. We are always getting captured… She frowned downheartedly, setting her mournful eyes on the back of Aang’s head. At least everyone is together this time.
“Where do you think they’re taking us?” She softly whispered, leading Aang to peer over his shoulder.
“They’re taking us directly to the master!” Chey exclaimed excitedly, turning his head back.
“Jeong Jeong told you not to look for Avatar!” Their captor bellowed.
“Hold on. You know these guys?!” Sokka wondered aloud.
“Oh yeah.” Chey stopped in his tracks, turning to face the three who trailed some steps behind him. “Lin Yee’s an old buddy! Right Lin Yee?”
“Shut up!” Lin Yee jabbed his pointed spear against Chey’s back. “Keep moving.” How did we wind up with this guy…? She shared a look of sorrow with Aang, before simply shutting her eyes sadly and continuing after him. We’re going to be okay…
The walk was long and tiresome, though straightforward. By the time they reached an opening in the forest, Katara hardly noticed the moon shine down on her sleepy eyes. “Go on.” Their captor ordered. She slipped her eyelids fully open to peer at Lin Yee as he stood just behind Chey. “He sees you only.”
“Oh that’s okay! We can chat later…” Chey dismissed with a wave of his hand.
“Is that where Jeong Jeong is? I need to talk to him right away!” Aang exclaimed and headed forward quickly.
“No!” The man thrust his spear into Aang’s path, halting him in his steps. “You wait there! Go! Now!” He bellowed and lunged forward, slamming his spear sideways into Chey to shove him down the path.
“Don’t worry! Everything’ll be fine. He’s a great man…great man!” Chey rambled aimlessly to himself as he continued down the steep trail that led to the riverside where Jeong Jeong’s single hut awaited him.
Lin Yee turned aside, leading the three to a small hut nearby. Good, we get to sleep. I’m so tired… She cupped her hand over her mouth to hide a large yawn, slipping through the tent’s front door behind Sokka.
The room was long and narrow; the floor being the dirt and grass itself. Sleeping on the ground again. She mused with a slight frown. Sokka threw a mat on the floor and fell on it straightaway. Nothing new. She consoled herself. It didn’t matter; she’d only been doing it for weeks now give or take a few lucky stays.
She entered the room and lifted a bundled mat lying in the corner. Laying it out beside her brother, she sat down and pulled her legs up beside her to lean on one arm, gazing at the distant flickering candles at the back wall of the room.
“A real master is here…I’m gonna learn firebending!” Aang nearly shouted, shaking his clenched fists excitedly ahead of him.
“Great.” Sokka wistfully spat his word toward the tarped ceiling, his arms beneath his head. “Can’t wait.”
“I wonder what it feels like to shoot fire from my fingers?” Aang mused aloud, taking what he thought was a firebending form and pretending to firebend. As he did, a breeze raced through the makeshift hut, causing the candle’s flames to dim and dance at his unintentional airbending.
Before Katara could tell Aang to not get too carried away with his newfound interest, Sokka broke in. “Hot, probably; unless you mean the feeling of becoming a jerk like every other firebender.” He mindlessly added with a wave of his hand.
“Aang is not going to become a jerk, Sokka.” She snapped as a sharp scowl overtook her, too tired to think why he was being so mean.
“Yeah, don’t worry. I won’t use my firebending to hurt people.” Aang casually replied; dropping to a mat he had laid out at Sokka’s other side.
“Then what will you use it for? Cooking without firewood?” Sokka questioned sharply, jolting himself upright. Crossing his arms he smugly added. “Real useful.”
“Hey that’s an idea! Oh, oh, and lighting candles or campfires! We won’t need you to fight with that flint box anymore!”
“Uh huh. Every firebender’s dream.” Sokka mocked coldly. Katara lifted her other hand to her lips, closing her eyes as she began chuckling happily. Her chuckles led into a yawn while Sokka shook his head rudely. “Listen, this is firebending we’re talking about. Don’t mess around with this Aang.”
She found herself having a difficult time following what was said one moment to the next. Her mind felt like slime leftover from a slow-moving skunk-slug. She couldn’t help it. Her supporting arm failed her, allowing her body to slip down to the mat helplessly. “Let’s all just get some rest. Lin Yee might not even let us out of here tonight.”
She rolled over, setting her back to her brother and Aang as her eyelids glued themselves overtop her eyes of their own accord. The two rambled on for another minute though she couldn’t keep up with the words to comprehend half of them, except for when one of them mentioned the word ‘waterbending’.
She forced an eyelid open, rolling over slightly to focus on the rest of the conversation. “…can’t stay here forever, we have to keep moving north.” She discerned Sokka saying.
“I have to learn waterbending too, so I’ll just do that after this. They’ll still teach me and Katara when we get there later! But Jeong Jeong might not be here for me to come back to.”
She rolled back away, smiling as her hands slipped beneath her head for support. He remembered me. Of course he would, she added. Yet still she closed her eyelids and loosed a pleasant sigh. Before drifting off to sleep she began to dream of the different forms she would learn. The twists and bends the water would take as it raced around her, the various uses from freezing and unfreezing water at her will. It was with this that she lost herself to wondrous dreams.
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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