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|The Air Walkers|
24-The Air Walkers
The canon goof that has the Mechanist automatically knowing Aang's age...well, that carries over to this chapter, dangit (or "daangit", for TAD. :D). Scrutinizing the scene, it's extremely unlikely there was any conversation that tipped the Mechanist off to this fact. Maybe they just wanted that said somewhere in the series and made him say it. I don't like including goofs.
Yes, that's right, for those of you who noticed the interesting, 'possible', "time-failure" in the storyteller's tale...kudos to you. It was intentional. That impression is also the one given off by the canon version of the last bits of it (via Aang's initial confusion), or so I felt.
No I'm not gonna leave you hanging with the 'dangled' pieces of information in this chapter. We'll be hearing more. It seems to me this chapter provides a large amount of 'set-up' for what more comes. And also yes; for those of you who noticed I used a picture from episode one. Bahaha. :)
Storyteller travelers, Air Walkers
Mention Only: Pirates, Air Nomads (Not counting Aang), Shining Lotus(fanon)
"Brr..." Katara stared with a somber frown over the edge of the saddle toward Aang, who was wearing her tribal coat. Sokka was in his; cozy in the back of the saddle. She sighed, returning her attention to her handiwork which was the reason Aang was in her coat. Running a needle through Aang's shirt's sleeve, she finished yet another portion that had been burned black.
The sun had set, darkness shrouding the forest below them as chilling breezes endlessly swept over Appa's saddle. Her brother shuffled past her and dropped to his knees, leaning over the saddle's edge toward their driver. "Aang, we've been flying around for awhile now. I can't even see the ground anymore! When are we going to set up camp and get a fire going?"
The needle expertly wound its way through cloth once again. "Yeah...sorry, didn't quite get as far as I meant to." Aang explained while Katara took a moment to narrow her eyes to the forest floor.
The ground itself seemed to hold a dull silver hue. Was it snow? Is it really? However her interest was broken in the next moment, spotting a bright speck of light from the corner of her eyes. "Hey, what's that?" She questioned, turning as her hair braid whipped behind her in the wind.
"Trouble." Sokka posed in answer to the speck of firelight Katara pointed to. That's your first thought? Trouble? She raised a brow in disinterest to her brother.
"Let's check it out." Aang answered nonchalantly, seemingly having either not heard Sokka or not paying him any mind.
"What?" Sokka propped his hands atop the saddle's edge, lifting himself to his knees to assert himself. "How many times am I going to have to say not to do something and you do it anyway, only to get us all in trouble!?"
"Sokka it's just a fire!" Katara quipped, turning back to rest against the saddle's edge with a scowl. "We were going to make one anyway. Besides, we left Zhao and his men behind us without boats. It's probably just some travelers trying to keep warm."
Silence. Sokka sat still, a frown covering his expression. She lowered her attention back to Aang's shirt, running the needle along its course once again. "Hmm." He playfully twisted his fingers around the saddle's edge, a grin creeping over his face. "Maybe they have food. Let's check it out."
Katara's eyes widened in surprise as they peered to him. He instantly changed his mind because of food? "What?" He questioned dismissively to his sister's awestruck gaze. "If you can't beat them, join them." He quipped with a shrug, turning toward the distant fire. Ah...
Leaving Appa to sit safely just out of sight in the forest, the three dismounted him as she exchanged Aang's mended clothing in return for her coat. At last. Gosh; I can't believe I get so cold anymore. She merrily slipped it over her. "You ever notice Aang keeps tearing up stuff? His clothing, his glider..." Sokka mused.
"Hey, I fixed my glider! I think I could fix my clothing too; it's just, Katara's so good at it..." Aang rubbed the back of his head as his cheeks flushed lightly.
"Thanks Aang." She locked her eyes on the blushing boy with a grin, turning her attention to the campfire ahead of them. "Those people look friendly enough." She whispered, gazing at a loosely gathered group resting on stone benches.
A warm firelight lit the area, illuminating a man sitting upon the raised step of a pagoda. "Greetings travelers!" The brown, fur coated man addressed them with a cool, clear voice, lifting his hand in the air. "You aren't too late to hear the rest of this story; please come, sit, join us!"
"A storyteller." Sokka whispered glumly. "Gonna be a long night."
Yes, with a warm fire and cultural tales. Maybe it'll be like Gran Gran's tales. She smiled excitedly. "Thank you, sir." The three quickly rounded the warm fire, which toasted her snugly within her Water Tribe fur coat as she sat between Aang and her brother, facing the elegant pagoda's prize storyteller.
The man slipped his feet forward, swinging his gaze over his waiting crowd slowly. "So; my great-grandfather was serving as a caravan's guard in trade routes with the western Earth Kingdom. It wasn't much of a living, or much pay, but it was an easy coin. Until..." The man straightened himself, lowering his voice as he proclaimed his great grandfather's ill fortune.
"It was late fall, evening. He was tired, bored from a full day's travel, weary of simply sitting in wait on a wagon filled with mysterious merchandise. His eyes drifted closed, beginning to relax..." The man suddenly bounded to his feet in front of the fire, throwing his hands high. "Hyaaa!" Whoa! Katara leaned away, silencing a gasp though she heard the crowd share one for her.
"Pirates filled the air, leaping from trees and the very ground itself! He leapt to his feet and drew his sword..." His voice lowered, as did his arms. Turning back to the pagoda, he inched up to its stone floor, reclining to sit himself once more. "But he was not ready. With hardly a battle, he found himself waking up, bound in rope in the belly of a dark ship."
Sokka elbowed her softly, muttering. "Just think. That could have been you."
"That isn't funny!" She snapped back quietly, nudging his arm away from her, turning back to see what she was missing.
"...a crafty individual. No man could tie a knot he could not undo. Within moments pirates' cries once again filled the air as he made his escape, as they had not disembarked yet. But he was not free; oh no, no. Here is the worst of it." He sat upright and pointed to the skies. "Hey! Hey!" He shouted strangely, leaving Katara to lift an eyebrow with curiosity.
"Wherever he ran, the same pesky voice trailed after him, leading the pirates after his every step. Finally he saw it through the darkness, something moving in the air. Hey! Hey!" He shouted once more, glancing to the skies again. "A large bird loomed in the darkness. My poor great-grandfather was so afraid he ran without ceasing for hours, tuning out the constant calls and cries behind and above until he eventually collapsed to his exhaustion."
A moment of silence. The man closed his eyes and hung his head, letting sorrow sink into his listeners. Well, go on. What happened to him? "What felt like an eternity passed, drifting in and out of consciousness. A faint sound caught his ears, bringing him back to his senses..." He paused, reopening his eyes to settle them upon the crowd, eventually upon Katara herself. "Hey." He stated plainly. Well that isn't good. She frowned, leaning back patiently.
"He leapt to his feet, ready to run once more to save his life, but he was too weary and fell back to the ground within his first few steps. On his back, he gazed up to the skies. Hey!" He threw his hand over his eyes, feigning squinting for a better view. "But what he saw was larger than a bird!" He threw his other hand up, pointing to the skies. "He leapt to his feet once again, chasing after this large shadow."
He rose to his feet, raising both of his arms. "This creature soared through the air like a bird, coming around quickly. He fell to the earth, watching intently as it passed him. It was a human!"
"Bo-ring." Sokka whispered, which Katara outright ignored. Huh? She tilted her head. A flying human, come again? Aang gasped with excitement beside her, leaning forward with his eyes set firmly on the storyteller. Oh! No way. He can't mean an airbender can he?
"The flying man soared over his head, his laughter filling the sky as he disappeared above the treetops. In the distance he saw the pirates fleeing. He had been saved." His finger traced a pattern, eventually pointing north-east. "The flying man disappeared deep into those mountains."
"The Northern Air Temple..." She heard Aang whisper under his breath. Please don't get your hopes up again...
The old man lethargically lowered to seat himself ahead of the fire. "So, travelers...the next time you think you hear a strange, large bird talking – take a closer look. It might not be a giant parrot, but a flying man! A member of a secret group of air walkers, who laugh at gravity-" He paused, pointing an accusing finger to all present as he boomed his voice. "-and laugh at those bound to the earth by it!"
Air walkers huh? If only he knew. She smiled merrily, turning to Aang as he seemed to share this excitement. "Aren't airbender stories the best?" He inquired.
She lifted her eyebrows, playing a smile to his enthusiasm. "Was it realistic? Is that how it was back then?"
"I laugh at gravity all the time!" He quickly added; pressing his eyes closed with mock laughter. "Gravity..." Oh Aang. She stifled a chuckle as the rattle of coins caught her attention.
"Jingle-jingle..." The storyteller passed his cap to Sokka, who seemed as if he had just woken up from a nap. Oh. We have to pay for that? Uh...
Sokka dug in his pockets before producing - a bug. She lifted an eyebrow in disgust momentarily, before simply smiling humorously. Sokka, that's just nasty. "Sorry." He apologized to the storyteller, who stood upright begrudgingly.
"Cheapskates!" He quipped, leaving the trio hastily. Her brother pulled back his coat and reached for his pockets, leading her to widen her eyes and wipe the smile right off her face. No, no you aren't... He slipped the bug back into his pocket. SOKKA!
She afforded a smile though, watching Aang clearly relish excitement as he leapt to his feet and bolted for the storyteller. "Hey! Thanks for the story..."
She glanced back to Sokka, frowning during her scolding him. "Sokka, when was the last time you washed that?"
"Me? Like, a year ago." He turned toward her with a raised brow. "You do all the washing; how do you expect me to remember this stuff?"
Ew! She cringed, a jolt of repulsion forcing a hard shudder. "Then it hasn't been washed since we left the South Pole. Sokka, you're disgusting. You know that?"
"Hey." He retaliated, twisting toward her. "It's not dirty; it's barely even been used much. It doesn't smell either so what's the big deal?"
She shook her head, laying both her gloved mitts on each arm as she turned away from him. "You so need to kiss a girl."
"What?!" Sokka jerked back, twisting his arm ahead of his chest in defensive surprise. "This again?!"
"Come on, Sokka." She released her arms, holding them out to her side in explanation as she glanced to him commandingly. "If you had a girlfriend would you act like this with her?"
"What are you prattling about child?!" The storyteller's harsh retort stole both their attention. Aang? She glanced ahead to the two in confusion. What are you doing? The man threw his gloved thumb over his shoulder. "Great-grand-pappy saw the air walkers last week!"
What?! Katara straightened herself, staring in surprise as Sokka simply snorted. "I wouldn't have to." He muttered, before adding under his breath which she vaguely caught. "She wouldn't be you." Katara narrowed her eyes, glancing out their corners to glare at her contemptuous brother. Ugh! Boys...
"Listen up!" The man stood tall ahead of the fire, regaining everyone's attention. Aang crossed the clearing, seating himself beside Katara with an almost giddy smile. "We will be heading south tomorrow, ending the day's expedition at the Ruins of Taku by nightfall. There; we shall have a tale of days of old..."
Taku? Isn't that where I was sick? He placed his palm to his chest, dipping his head toward the fire with closed eyes, seemingly in awe. "...tales of a time long forgotten, with breakthroughs of science and discovery as well as kings and queens." A child raised his hand, interrupting the man's explanation. "Yes, boy?"
"What happened to Taku?" It's a wreck. She mused with a humorous smile. I think I still have a crown from there thanks to Momo.
"We will explore that tomorrow. Suffice to say; a hundred years ago it perished to the Fire Nation." Finished answering this, he ran his eyes across those present commandingly. "Now! All of you ensure you rest well; tomorrow will be another long journey."
The man approached Katara, glancing once each at the three of them – though scowling at her brother as his eyes passed over him. "The three of you are welcome to join us on our expeditions if you so wish. Otherwise; feel free to stay the night."
"Thanks, but we really need to keep moving. We're on our way to the North Pole." Katara gently returned with a courteous wave of her palm before she spotted Aang gazing at her with large, pleading eyes. She lifted an eyebrow curiously. What, you want to go with them? We can't...
Aang bowed his head to the man, returning a smile. "Thank you for your offer though, sir."
"Safe travels." He turned and walked off, leaving the three of them to prepare for the night.
She stirred from her sleep, thrusting her eyes open as she felt somebody's presence touching her. There Aang was, kneeling by her face with his hand gently on her shoulder. "Ssh." He held his other finger to his lips. "Let's go." Aang... She propped herself up from their provided blankets, gazing at the sleeping crowd. It was still early morning. What are you doing?
She blinked away her sleep as she saw Sokka stir to life as well, following after Aang as they headed away from the campsite. She groaned quietly, lifting her stiff body from the ground to follow after them.
"Aang, why the hurry?" Sokka posed as he rubbed his eyes sleepily.
"We're going to the Northern Air Temple!" He exclaimed excitedly, airbending himself up atop Appa's head. "Wake up buddy. Come on guys, let's go!" Katara shared a look of worry with her brother; who seemed more apathetic than anything else. No sooner had the two siblings crawled into the saddle than Aang snapped the reins. "Yip-yip!"
She scooted across the saddle, leaning over its front to peer down at her friend. "Aang. I know those were great stories; but please don't get your hopes up that the Air Nomads will be waiting for you." Her voice lowered, her sapphire eyes settling upon him with sympathy. "They're gone..."
He twisted his head back, retorting to her quickly with heightening enthusiasm. "The stories he told were just like my people. He said his great-grandfather saw the Air Nomads just last week!"
"Uh huh." Sokka quipped disinterestedly from the back of the saddle. Glancing over her shoulder, she spotted him whittling away at another piece of wood in his hands. There's that again. What is he doing?
"I know my people." Aang added assuredly, turning ahead of them as they sailed past the sleeping group below. "They lived a very nomadic lifestyle; there's no way they were all at the temple when it was attacked. I'm sure someone had to have survived...and these mountains are like home to us, there are hundreds of places they could have hidden!"
"Hm..." She shut her eyes, thinking back to the Southern Air Temple and how he was right that he survived all this time. "I suppose it's possible..."
"We have to check it out!" He shouted back gleefully.
"You mean the hundreds of hiding places?" Sokka quipped sarcastically, flinging a shredded piece of wood to the wind.
"You heard the story; the airbender sailed for these mountains. The Northern Air Temple is this way! He saw him just a week ago! They might be there still!"
Oh Aang... She opened her eyes, gazing at his blue arrow sadly. Well, we were going this way anyway. "It doesn't hurt to check." He turned a beaming smile back to her, which she gratefully returned.
"Whatever." Sokka dismissed. "You two always go where you want to anyway."
She crawled over to the front of the saddle, resting her gloved hands on its edge as she leaned gingerly to spot the airbender on the other side. Tell me something. He lay on his back, his staff sideways beneath his head and his legs idly stretched up Appa's neck. "Hey." He chimed to her.
Several hours later, she was bored. She couldn't help it; these long trips between destinations left a lot of silence now and then. While at first, so long ago, flying on Appa had been a beautiful experience, now the shock of it had long since worn off. However; it still beat any other form of travel that she knew of.
"Hey." She returned, pulling back slightly to rest her chin atop her lavender gloves.
"Something on your mind?" He continued, settling his grey eyes into hers' of sea blue.
"Kind of." She stated softly, burying her chin between her mitts. "I'm just a little bored. Can you tell me what the Northern Air Temple was like when you were there before?"
"Sure!" Aang beamed joyfully, lifting to sit upright. "The Northern Air Temple was the hub of all my people's cultural activity." He loosed a single laugh, crossing his legs as he leaned back, propping his hands off Appa's head. "If you thought we had cool games like airball at the Southern Air Temple; this place will amaze you! Have you ever heard of sky bison polo?"
"No, I can't say that I have." She gently posed with a slight tilt of her head.
"Every year the Air Nomads would gather at the Northern Air Temple where teams of four would face off against one another." He leaned forward, his gray eyes practically leaping from their sockets as he waved his arms forward with excitement, before pressing one to his chest. "I personally rooted for the Shining Lotus." A warm grin tugged at his lips, clearly cherishing the memory.
She exhaled softly, enjoying the wind on her face as she attempted to get a visual for his story. "What was that?"
"That was the name for my favorite bison polo team." Aang chortled playfully, leaning back. "Why else? Gyatso was on that team, so was Sister Iio and–"
"Sister Iio? Who was that? Was she like Monk Gyatso?"
"Sort of. She was a pretty nice lady, full of energy despite her age. Sister Iio was on the council at the Eastern Air Temple. I'll tell you some other time."
She cocked her head slightly to one side, stretching a glove ahead of her in wonder. "So...competition? I thought the Air Nomads were quiet and peaceful?"
Aang immediately burst into a solid laugh, dropping his arms to Appa's arrow. Appa groaned as if joining in a laugh of his own. "We knew how to live life to its fullest! We respected everyone, though. We didn't really compete with each other so much as understand how to cut loose and have fun."
You mean the Air Nomads were...bubbly like you? She lifted an eyebrow curiously, tucking her glove back beneath her chin as she leaned forward over the saddle's front. "You mean they weren't all stout, pious and quiet monks?" Her eyes drifted above the Air Nomad, idly observing the mountains below them. "Were the Air Nomads like, well, you?" She questioned softly, lowering her gaze to meet his.
He shrugged with amusement. "Well, the monks who stayed at the Air Temples usually devoted their lives to enlightenment, dedicating their body and mind to the bettering of our people."
"Like Monk Gyatso?" She curiously posed.
A wry grin overtook his expression. "You could say that." Eh...excuse me? She blinked in surprise, but Aang was already twisting back to gaze ahead of them. "Hey! We're almost to the Northern Air Temple! This is where they had the championships for sky bison polo."
Her eyes shot up to scan the distance. I wonder what we'll find. What it will look like, or if someone will be there... She glanced aside, noticing something. I...am I actually believing Air Nomads will be there? Turning back to gaze at the back of Aang's head, she smiled humorously. It was obvious; Aang's excitement was contagious.
Aang has made some very great points... She twisted her head back to Sokka, observing him whittling away on a piece of wood still. Surely you think it's at least possible, right? She rose to her feet and stepped closer, throwing herself down beside her brother to settle an anxious smile upon him. "Do you think we'll really find airbenders?"
As soon as he opened his mouth; his tone reminded her why she shouldn't have asked him. "Do you want me to be like you, or totally honest?" Whoa; whoa, like me?! She pulled away, eyeing him dubiously. Just what is that supposed to mean?
She crossed her arms tightly as a cross scowl swept away her pleasure, directing all its energy toward a typical attitude sitting beside her. "Are you saying I'm a liar?"
He paused for only a moment, lifting his head disinterestedly. "I'm saying you're an optimist; same thing, basically."
You...you didn't just. A wash of fury drowned her, coursing into her body with a warmth that gave her the false sense of sweat beneath her coat. You jerk. You would call your own sister a liar! Before she could muster a reply, Aang's excited voice reclaimed the hostile scene. "HEY GUYS! Look at this!!"
What. She flatly thought. Her head bobbed away from her brother, shifting her eyes ahead to... The Northern Air Temple! A cool breeze passed through her, cooling her prior temper and replacing it with sudden joy. What's that...oh my gosh. It isn't. Is it? Oh my gosh!
Movement dotted the skies, surrounding the air temple. From this distance, she could make out wings. Gliders! They're, oh my goodness gracious they're using gliders just like Aang! Air Nomads are still alive! She leapt away from her pessimistic brother, slapping her hands upon the front of the saddle as she nearly leaped over it toward Aang, drawing in a breath, a gasp of surprise. "They really are airbenders!" He's going to be so happy!
The unthinkable. He crossed his arms and sat back against Appa's neck, scornfully replying. "No they're not." A...Aang? What? But...
"What do you mean they're not?!" Sokka excitedly shouted behind her. "Those guys are flying!"
He maintained his prior tone. "Gliding maybe, but not flying. You can tell by the way they move. They're not airbending." He lifted a palm ahead of his face, accusingly adding. "Those people have no spirit."
But...how? I mean, they're here. And...well...gliders! Whoosh! AAH! She ducked, throwing her arms beside her face defensively and shutting her eyes in fright just as a flying man soared by her head. Laughter filled the clear blue skies as the boy arched back around.
She rose, turning to watch as he came back around from behind Appa. Hey! That's like what happened to the storyteller's great-grandfather! "I don't know Aang." She lifted her finger, pointing to the boy in the air with a pleasant smile. "That kid seemed pretty spirited!"
The boy swooped past Appa, glancing back to afford a cocky grin to the fliers behind him. Are you sure they aren't related, somehow? It doesn't hurt to find out. Snap! Aang leapt into the air, swinging his kite open as he swooped down to give chase to the boy. Uh...Aang? Her mouth hung open as she watched his body grow smaller, closing in on his opponent.
Huh? Movement caught her eye. Lime green gliders surrounded Appa, filling the skies with flying people. Uh...hello... She laid her hands on the front of the saddle, feeling extremely visible without Aang guiding Appa right now.
Whoosh! Two gliders raced upward directly in front of Appa, scaring the poor bison. Throwing his head back to roar in protest, Katara's gloved grip on the saddle's edge failed as she suddenly found herself airborne, grasping thin air. "Whoa!" Before she had time to settle into this fear; her back slammed into her brother, ceasing her momentous flight. "Ow!"
His hand found her back, gazing at her with shock as she turned to him, settling her hands in the saddle. Th-thank you... She could only muster to think, her heart fluttering from nearly seeing her last moments. "We better find some solid ground before it finds us!" He furthered. Yeah...
She crawled forward cautiously, her limbs still shaking from her momentary surprise. "Sorry!" She heard a girl call out as she soared overhead. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to do that!"
Katara forced a flash of a toothy smile, idly waving her glove toward the long brown-haired girl just above her. Yeah...uh, I want on land. Now. She slipped over the saddle, carefully sliding to Appa's head. "Ssh. It's just me boy. Please, keep still." A low, guttural moan sounded in apparent apology. Seizing the reins, she clambered back up his neck and leapt into the saddle, sitting at its front to steer from supposed safety.
Moments later, Katara climbed off of Appa and leapt to the stone tile of an upper landing deck, a side entrance to what seemed to be a great towering castle. Ground. I love you. She rubbed her feet along the stone, tapping against it twice as if testing its solidity.
"Go Teo!" A small boy shouted into the skies to her side. Glancing toward him, he held two sticks high into the air, cheering on his supposed friend. "Show that bald kid how it's done!"
Her eyes widened as she jolted back in shock. Bald kid? Sokka landed squarely on his feet behind her. You have no idea who you're calling a bald kid. She frowned dejectedly at him, before glancing beyond him to spot Aang and Teo circle one another in a tight dance through the skies.
A moment later Aang shot by like a bolt of lightning, his kite whipping against the wind as he leapt off for a wall run, disappearing around the corner. Uh...he's really taking this seriously. She tilted her head slightly after him. "Air Nomads, competitive." Sokka mused in jest, glancing out the corner of his eyes to her. "I wonder why I don't have a hard time believing that."
"Whoa...!" The kid from before bolted forward from the crowd; gazing after Aang as he whipped back for Teo. Not so loud now huh. She smirked playfully. "YEAH!" The boy suddenly shouted as the crowd broke into an uproar of cheers. What? Glancing up, Teo zipped through the skies leaving a trail of smoke behind him.
Katara lowered one eyebrow, lifting her other as she stared in perplexion at this. What is he doing? It didn't take long to clarify this, circling his work several times over to add a cloud here and a puff there. Oh. She let her arms lay loosely at her sides, smiling softly at Teo's handiwork. Cloud-painting. Clever. The clouds resembled Aang, outlining his face, down to the arrow.
"Wow!" Again whoops and cheers filled the air as children waved on their 'team'. It was pretty good. "Yeah!" – "Woo-hoo!"
She smiled as Aang soared toward her and her brother, breaking his descent with a swift upward airbending gust and snapping his kite shut to land beside her. Welcome back. Standing between her brother and Aang, she watched patiently as Teo slammed to the well-kept stone court, skidding to a stop in something she had never seen before in her life. What...
Others detached and carried off the glider wings attached to what seemed to be a chair with wheels. He turned, rolling the wheels forward to approach them. A wheel-chair? She noted his legs were bound together in white wrappings. Oh. I guess he needs it?
He closed in on the group, coming to a halt in front of the trio. She lowered her eyes to him, smiling thoughtfully. You're pretty amazing. "Hey! You're a real airbender." He leaned forward from his chair in rising wonder. "You must be the Avatar! That's amazing! I've heard stories about you!" He jolted back, his voice reaching new heights as he rubbed his dark brown hair, pushing his tinted goggles further back across the top of his head.
Yeah; Aang has quite the name. "Thanks..." Aang shyly responded, gingerly rubbing his bald head dismissively.
"Wow!" Sokka outright cried. Now what? She set her disapproving eyes on her brother as he immediately broke away, approaching the young 'air walker', Teo. "This glider-chair is incredible!"
He twisted his chair to the side as Sokka laid his hand on the off-white glider wings still held by Teo's friends. "You think this is good, wait 'til you see the other stuff my dad designed." Teo added with a chuckle, rolling down a blue-tiled walkway leading to a beautiful blue entrance into the temple.
"Your dad made this, he's an inventor? This I've got to see!" Sokka cheered as Katara turned to Aang, lifting an eyebrow.
Teo loosed a lighthearted laugh, waving his arm forward over his shoulder. "Come on inside and I'll show you!" Laying his hands on his chair's wheels, he gave them a quick spin and rolled down the alley.
"Wait, inside?" Aang retorted in sudden surprise, stepping past Katara to follow their leader. Following after Aang, she reached her brother's side as they all entered the corridor, holding off her thoughts to see what came of this.
A steady hiss echoed down the path ahead. Um...just what is all this? It looks like that Fire Nation ship Gran Gran told us not to go on... White, misty smoke lingered lazily in the distance, covering a dark, metallic hue. A sudden whir distracted her, catching her attention as a metal cage soared up the seeming three-story oblong room.
Emptiness filled her gut. This doesn't look like the Southern Air Temple at all. Now gazing to the upper half of this immense room, pipes ran criss-cross through its reaches, running through cracked and torn holes in the wall and ceiling. "Woow!" Her brother exclaimed in wonder, bolting quickly into the room.
"Yeah. My dad is the mastermind behind this whole place." He...well, what he did with it. She caught sight of a spinning metal wheel, which continuously loosed a whine of metal on metal while hot air hissed from it. "Everything's powered by hot air! It even pumps hot air outside to give us a lift while we're gliding."
As Teo explained this, a lady carrying goods stepped into what seemed to be another metal cage, pulling a lever as a blast of steam deafened her. The cage shot upright, halting at a walkway near the upper middle of the room. Well it certainly has its uses. But wow, it's so...
"This place is unbelievable." Aang declared quietly.
"Yeah." Teo began with a masked laugh. "It's great isn't it?"
"No." Aang mildly retorted. "Just unbelievable." I was afraid of this... Teo clearly seemed confused, gazing after Aang as the Air Nomad wandered off into the room.
She approached Teo, temporarily resting her hand on the corner of his chair to explain how her friend felt. "Aang used to come here a long time ago. I think he's a little shocked it's so..." Uh...not bad, I mean...it's your home and it works for you. She smiled light-heartedly, trying desperately to not shoot down anybody's way of living here. "...different!" She added with a wave of her hand and a soft smile.
"So better!" Sokka's shout echoed through the steamy chamber. Oh Sokka, you would go and say something like that. She broke away from Teo's side, hastily chasing after a certain boy in mourning.She caught up to him quickly, slowing her pace to match his before he halted ahead of the room's wall. What was there to say? Anxiety filled her as she helplessly watched him taking in the sights of his old home. Following his upturned face, she observed murals of Air Nomads and sky bison gathered on a mountainside, surrounded by clouds.
"This is supposed to be the history of my people..." Aang's voice alone broke her, harboring great pain at the cracks and pipes tearing holes through his history. Her lip tugged into a frown, lowering her eyes to the back of his head. What can I do? It's...I just... She stepped forward, laying her gloved hand gently on his shoulder and closing her eyes. I know this hurts. I'm sorry.
He didn't return her affection. She found her hand holding nothing as he simply walked away, breaking out of her grasp. Aang... She idly pulled her hand back, gazing after him sadly.
She finally resumed following him as he stepped into the darkest half of the room. A large fountain with an immense bison statue filled the center of this dark corner, surrounded by wooden construction and thick, black, soot-like stains. Ew...just what has happened here? The fountain was not filled with water. It certainly seemed like water, but it streamed and bubbled an ugly, slime-like green.
As she approached the boy standing completely still, facing this fountain, a staunch smell assailed her nostrils that made her empty stomach churn. What is this? Above the filthy fountain, at its center, a tall, blackened stone statue of a sky bison stood erect. But despite it being a sky bison, it did not wholly resemble Appa. The top of its head seemed to be curly, or hold a thousand eye-like orifices, she couldn't tell. And, standing upright, it held a strange ball within its front two feet.
She closed in on him just in time for a loud belch of smoke to billow from this statue's mouth, filling the air with thick black smog. "Ugh!" Aang jolted back in horror, throwing his arms to his side as he lingered a step back. You shouldn't see this...
She stopped beside him, again gently laying her hand upon his shoulder as he slumped forward. "I'm sure some parts of the temple are still the same." He didn't answer; look at or even turn his head to her. She found herself hurting, noting that his sadness, replacing his earlier excitement, was also contagious.
"I think I know just the place." Teo's voice called out, rolling closer to her and Aang. "If you'd like, I could take you there."
Glancing back over her shoulder, Teo smiled warmly to her as she answered for Aang's silence. "We'd love to. Thanks." Teo twisted his chair aside, spinning his wheels as he rolled for a distant corridor at the farther side of the room.
Aang still hadn't even so much as lifted his head. She turned back to him, stepping closer as she leaned beside him. Is he... crying? "What have they done...?" He whispered quietly, clearly holding back his pain. "This is supposed to be in honor of Vehementis..."
He turned away from her, breaking away from her supportive hand once again to follow after Teo and Sokka. Oh Aang... She breathed lowly, her eyebrows pressing into her forehead in worry. Maybe Teo can brighten your mood.
The constant creak of Teo's wheels was all that she heard as the four followed a stone pathway that wrapped the perimeter of the temple. Katara felt slightly edgy, uncertain if Aang was angry with Teo or if Teo was feeling apprehensive with Aang. Well, I've got to do something... Following beside Aang, she addressed Teo pleasantly. "My name is Katara. This is Aang, and my brother Sokka. It's nice to meet you Teo."
"And you! We don't often get visitors here. We've lived here for about as long as I can remember. Dad really made something of this place for us."
"Yeah..." Aang idly responded, leading Katara to bite her lip. Well that didn't work.
They passed over a long, narrow stone bridge leading to a distant three-story tower with numerous windows. At its base, resting on the top of a mountain itself, a basement held smaller windows with a conjoining walkway leading away from the tower. She gazed over the edge of the narrow bridge, reminiscing the sensation of catching flight when Appa thrown her not long ago. Don't think about it. Just don't think about it. She snapped her head up, drawing closer to this tower with Teo at the lead.
Rounding the circular walk of this lone spire, she followed into a grand circular tiled courtyard. Wow. It's huge! Four statues of male monks stood watch symmetrically placed close to the walls of the inner court. Against the farther wall, in a shadowed recess, a fifth, immense statue of a long-bearded monk in meditation rest.
In awe, she lifted her eyes to the second and third stories, feeling very small among the wonder of the Air Nomads' construction. "Aang, it's beautiful." She whispered, following after him as he passed Teo and Sokka and headed for the main statue.
Blue and white emblems of swirling air symbols donned the edges of terraced balconies. Numerous wooden doors lined the three floors, each with a dull blue circle window pane sunken into the wall above it. "Yeah..." But this time, Aang's voice resonated with a new tone; a reminiscent, emotional weight.
She smiled as he stopped in front of the immense statue which filled the entirety of the wall's crevice, reaching to the second floor. Such detail. She gazed into the statue's face as Aang voiced his pleasure. "It's nice to see at least one part of the temple that isn't ruined." A long, carved mustache stretched below the statue's chest, the same length as its beard.
Hm... he looks wise. I wonder if Aang knew this guy. "Look out!" A high-strung, male's voice echoed from above into the courtyard. Who? The creak of rope caught her ears. What? BAM!
Ah! She jerked away and ducked as the statue's face sailed for her head, throwing her arms over the top of her head reactively. The clatter of stone and coughing of her brother and Teo echoed from wall to wall, but she found herself luckily untouched. What just happened...?!
She twisted back, straightening herself to gaze past the settling dust cloud at a gaping hole in the wall where the intricate statue had just been. Oh no. Oh no-no. There, five men stood with one brown-haired man at the lead. "What the doodle?! Don't you know enough to stay away from construction sites?!" Aang shuddered and trembled, his knuckles whitening as he clasped his staff firmly. I-I...how could this happen? She held one hand up, helpless as Aang convulsed. "We have to make room for the bath-house."
Aang lost it. He swung his staff ahead of him, seizing it in both hands as he dropped into a fighting stance. "Do you know what you did?!" Oh spirits. Please, please don't, Aang! I'm sure he doesn't have bad intentions! "You just destroyed something sacred! For a stupid bath-house!" He shouted at the top of his lungs, lifting his voice to the skies in sharp rage.
The white-apron, green clothed man didn't seem fazed. He waved his hand nonchalantly by his face before clasping them behind his back. "Well people around here are starting to stink."
Katara's eyes widened like saucers, hanging her mouth open as her heart raced. Aang threw his hand forward, thrusting an accusing finger toward the indifferent individual. "This whole place stinks!" He roared. Katara could only watch as a gale of wind surged after Aang's furious over handed strike.
The wind screamed with calamity as stone and rubble slung into the air. His sudden strike launched the wrecking ball device the man had been using clean off the side of the cliff with wooden planks sailing furiously into midair.
Silence settled in. She straightened, lowering her arms in defeat beside her, worry creasing her features as she simply gazed to the men ahead of Aang. Why. Why would you do this? This place is so beautiful...and you just, just...
Aang drew a breath, straightening himself as he set the edge of his staff against the stone, standing upright. "This is a sacred temple." Aang began more calmly, but still sharp as nails. "You can't treat it this way." He continued keeping his accusing finger pointed to the man, advancing upon him with two steps to clench his fist before him. "I've been here when the monks were here. I know what it's supposed to be like!"
"The monks...?" The man's deep voice curiously posed, lowering his eyes, one eye peering through a clear piece of glass, at the yellow and orange child before him. "But, you're twelve?" He reached up, stroking at his large brown beard, a large brown side-ways mustache hiding his lips. How did he know that?
"Dad..." Teo swiftly rolled up to his father, turning his head to Aang excitedly. "He's the Avatar! He used to come here a hundred years ago."
Katara remained still, her mouth still parted as Aang furthered his livid rage. "What are you doing? Who said you could be here!?" Aang was now right next to him, his arm stretched away in gesture of his demand.
"Hmm..." The man turned away from Aang's wrath. "Doing here... A long time ago, but not a hundred years, my people became refugees after a terrible flood." The older man dance-stepped a circle, laying his hands on the back of Teo's wheelchair as his eyes endeared those of his son's. "My infant son, Teo, was badly hurt and lost his mother." He paused, standing upright as he fought off tears.
He lifted his eyes, gazing in deep reflection upward. "I needed somewhere to rebuild and I stumbled across this place! Couldn't believe it!" He took off with his arms in the air, mimicking almost bird-like movements as he twitched about. "Everywhere, pictures of flying people! But empty, nobody home. Then!" He took off in a circular sprint with his arms wide, clearly ecstatic. "I came across these fan-like contraptions!"Aang crossed his arms, lifting his eyes with a hard scowl to the giddy man that ceased his gleeful sprint just ahead of him and Katara. "Our gliders."
"Yes!" He flipped his hands like a bird. "Little like flying machines. They gave me an idea." He turned toward Teo, Katara following his eyes to see his son smiling warmly back to his father. "Build a new life for my son." He whipped away, throwing his hands to the sky as he walked toward the open air beyond the freshly created hole. "In the air! Then everyone would be on equal ground." His hands slipped behind him, not turning back to them. "So to speak."
Her eyes misted over, twinkling with the sunlight shining into the inner courtyard. So...Teo lost his mom too and can't walk, but he loves his son so much that Teo can move as freely as even Aang...what a dad! "We're just in the process of improving what's already here." Katara took hold of Aang's orange tunic, lifting it to her face as she wiped her eyes dry. "And after all, isn't that what nature does?" Aang...see? He's a wonderful father. He did all this for Teo!
Aang approached the man just after she released his tunic, subtly replying. "Nature knows where to stop."
"I suppose that's true. Unfortunately, progress has a way of getting away from us." He fell silent for just a moment, turning into the courtyard. Katara breathed a soft sigh. But where are you, dad? "Look at the time!" She snapped to, glancing at candles he pointed to. "Come. The pulley system must be oiled before dark."
Sokka broke from the trio, heading to the candles curiously as he pointed a single finger toward the device. "Wait, how can you tell the time from that thing? The notches all look the same." And yet again I find myself agreeing with you. She smirked, hiding a chuckle before wiping her expression from her face.
The green-clad man approached her brother, kneeling as they both admired the gentle flame. "The candle will tell us. Watch." Cute. She smirked. Like two notches on one candle. Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap! What was that? A single eyebrow arched as she pondered the sound.
"You put spark powder in the candle!" Sokka exclaimed.
"Four flashes. So it's exactly four hours past mid-day! Or as I call it...four o' candle." Sokka loosed one of the most grating laughs her ears had ever heard, leading her to cringe softly. Oh gosh, that was embarrassing. Where did that come from?
The both of them stood upright as the Mechanist lifted his hand. "If you liked that wait 'til you see my finger-safe knife sharpener!" He reached his hand over to seize his other hand's fingers, bringing Katara to widen her eyes in shock as she had only just realized his left hand held three wooden fingers rather than natural ones. "It only took me three tries to get it right!"
Pluck! With a pleasant smile he chucked the three wooden prosthetics into Sokka's hand, who shrieked in horror at this discovery. Wow. I don't know what to say. He tapped Sokka's shoulder as he walked past him. "Follow me!"
Hm. She watched curiously as Sokka took off in a sprint to follow Teo's father. "Hey, Aang." She diverted her attention to Teo as he rolled ahead of them. "I want to show you something." And with that he immediately thrust his arms forward, rolling back the way they had entered these sleeping quarters.
A low, barely audible mutter issued from Aang. "Do I really want to see?" Katara's eyes snapped to their side, gazing at Aang in surprise. You're still hurt about this... She lingered behind a moment, staring sadly at the back of Aang's arrow before making her way after the two of them.
Having followed the stone pathway leading back to the temple's main hall, Teo turned his wheelchair down a long, wide corridor. She sped her pace to round the corner just beside Aang, giving her head a slight-turn as she locked eyes with him. "Aang? Are you alright?"
"No." He plainly stated, maintaining his attention toward Teo. What do I have to do to help you through this? She turned forward as well, patiently waiting for an idea to come to her or for Teo to spark a better mood. "I just can't get over it." He continued. "There's not a single thing that's the same."
"I don't know about that." Teo unexpectedly halted in the middle of the dark passageway. She smiled to the young boy as he bent for the ground. "The temple might be different. But the creatures that live here..."
He sat back up with something cupped in his hands. Oh...what do you have there? She knelt forward beside him, smiling to a small, furry, shelled creature. Just as she eyed this interesting creature, Teo passed it toward her. "...are probably direct descendents of the ones that lived here a long time ago." She gratefully accepted the creature, holding her other gloved hand up as it crawled sideways into it.The six-legged shelled crab-like creature issued a series of clicking sounds, as if expressing its interest for her attention. Aw...what are these things? They're so cute! "You're right." Gently she rubbed at the top of the creature's shell with her other gloved hand's finger. It didn't seem to mind, chattering as its antenna swayed ahead of it. "They're kind of keepers of the temple's origins."
You simply can't resist something this cute. She turned to Aang, spreading her hands to him and offering him the furry-legged creature. She watched hopefully as he took the creature in his palm and lowered his grey eyes to it, a sudden smile gracing his lips at its touch. I knew it. She breathed softly in relief.
"Besides." Teo continued. "There's one part of the temple that hasn't changed at all."
Aang didn't respond for a moment; simply shifting his gaze to Teo quietly. "And where would that be?" He finally posed softly.
Teo laughed lightheartedly, rolling his chair on down the aisle. "You mean you can't tell where we're going?"
"Oh. You mean..." Aang suddenly fell silent. Katara cracked her mouth open, turning to Aang perplexedly as he seemed to carry an expression of either confusion or uncertainty.
"Come on, follow me!" Teo took a final turn, disappearing around a dark corner. Aang stood still, Katara observing him patiently. Are you going to go? His eyes drifted to the creature in his palm, tipping his head toward it as he appeared to whisper something.
"Hm?" She inquired curiously. Did he just talk to it?
"Well. Let's check this out." He idly passed the creature back to Katara, passing her as he followed after their leader. "And you're right." He added, standing by the corner as she set the creature with its kind by a dark pipe. "These hermit crabs are kind of keepers the temple's origin. They were here before my people." He turned back after Teo, dipping his head to quietly add before disappearing after him. "And after."
She followed quietly after Aang, her eyes shifting to Teo as he led them down the immense hallway with large blue and white swirling air symbols colored into the stone floor. A wooden doorway three times her size laid patiently in wait as the three approached. Nearing it, she noticed it had a serpentine-like organ pipe adjoined against it. "Hey! It's just like the other air temple!"
Teo spun his chair to the side, turning to them. "Only an airbender can open it. So inside it's completely untouched, just the way the monks left it! I've always wondered what it was like in there."
Just like the monks left it. She shifted her eyes supportively to Aang. What will it be? "Aang?"
Momentary quiet. He closed his eyes and dipped his head, clearly giving this deep thought. "I'm sorry. This is the last part of the temple that's the same as it was. I want it to stay that way."
"I completely understand." Teo calmly replied. "I just wanted you to know it was here."
"Thanks." Without wait, he turned away and began walking the way he had come.
Following after Aang, she clutched her stomach as it rumbled in protest. Ugh. "Teo..." She glanced over her shoulder as he smiled up to her. "May we have some lunch? We didn't have breakfast this morning."
"Absolutely, not a problem."
Aang paused, turning back to set his eyes questionatively upon the young boy. "Is the common room still...there?"
Teo gave his head a slight tilt, raising a brown eyebrow to Aang perplexedly. "Uh, which room was that? Gotta be a little more specific."
"It was a large domed room with tables in it. Four tables at its center were special-made pai sho tables."
Teo's eyes lit up like the Southern Stars. "Oh yeah! Those tables are still there. That's our cafeteria."
A cute, slowly-creeping smile etched into Aang's face as he turned toward Katara. Receiving this curious attention, she blinked in surprise. What is he thinking? "What is it, Aang?"
"Would you like to play a game of pai sho with me?"
Uh...I uh, pai sho? She dodged his grey eyes, glancing aside fretfully. "I don't know how."
"That's okay; neither do I." Teo added in with a laugh. "Nobody here knows how to play it. Well, if dad does he never said." He nodded his head to Aang as he continued. "You could try to ask him if you'd like."
"Nah, that's okay." Aang nonchalantly retorted, returning his attention to her with a returning smile. "Come on, just give it a try. I'll show you how."
Well...he does seem much happier. Maybe I'll try. She smiled with interest, accepting his gaze. "Okay." Her single word came out softly.
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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