|More from Vulmen||Adventure/Drama||G (all ages)||Positive||News (Eyes of Katara)|
Mention Only: Octo-jellypus (fanon), Viper-Bat, Pigeon-Hawk
- Second Tier Landing
- Northern Air Temple
- Desecrated Inner Sanctuary
- East Spire's Sleeping Quarters - Aang's Room (fanon)
- Common Room
- Western Tower's Laboratory
- Mention Only: Cellar, Kyoshi Island, Ba Sing Se
Mention Only:Pai Sho
Objects... (of interest?)
- Sanctuary Door
- War Balloon
- War Balloon model
- Mention Only: Bombs (Smoke, Slime, Fire, Stink)
Okay; deep breaths, this will be exciting...just think about that. Aang does this all the time. "There you two are!" Teo exclaimed as she and Aang left the dark passageway and joined the Air Walker on the second tier landing. "I was starting to wonder if you were going to show up."
"Yeah; sorry...we kind of got a little busy." Katara shyly responded, dipping her gaze for the snowy blue stone path ahead of her.
"You think we should have told Sokka about this? He might have wanted to fly too." Teo softly posed as the two approached him.
She briskly shook her head, disagreeing with Teo's concern. "My brother said your dad wanted him for something today." And I kind of forgot to mention this to him. Oh well, he wouldn't have wanted to anyway.
"His loss. Today; you get to fly!" Teo gleefully shouted, twisting his chair fully back to face her.
"Glide." Aang singly corrected with a monotone reply.
Soft footsteps caught her attention. She glanced behind her to spot Lillia carrying a large green glider. This...is it. Her face twisted into a complex frown, nervously shifting her attention to Aang at her side. However; he didn't seem to be paying attention at the moment. It was evident in his stormy eyes that he was yet again distraught over something. Probably this flying reminded him of the Air Nomads. Cheer up Aang...
"Okay; glide. I guess I don't know what flying feels like then; but it's gotta be awful close." Aang didn't reply to Teo this time, clutching his staff tighter in his grip as he set its end to the stone beside him.
"Morning, Katara! Or noon, whatever." Lillia joyfully uttered, holding out the front handlebar of the glider for her to seize. Oh gosh. Her eyebrows lifted into her forehead; sparing a moment of not reaching for the glider. "This is so great! I'm so glad I get to share my glider with you! Go on, take it!" She broke her excitement with a sharp chuckle. "Just do me a favor and don't crash it."
Ugh. Crash... She afforded the girl a cringe of a smile before reaching her lavender mitts to seize the glider's handlebar. "Right. Avoid crashing." But she hesitated before gripping the wooden bar, staring at it dismally.
Lillia shoved the glider forward, suddenly pressing it into Katara's hands and letting go. "Alright, here's the short of it." The girl's hands quickly pointed to the back of the glider, just below the smaller, lime-green wing at the back. "Your legs go in this catch; it helps you balance yourself with the glider...and to keep you from falling. To control the glider you use your full body, lean with it the direction you want to go. You'll get the hang of it. If you get caught in a wind draft, just follow it out or just barely turn out of it – don't fight it or it will take you down. And-"
Katara panicked. I can't even see wind! How am I supposed to watch out for it?! Aang flies, I don't! She wasn't even listening to Lillia, realizing now that she was still talking. They fly all the time here...not just Aang, they know what they're doing. It's okay, calm down. You said you would do it. "...hot air is vented outside of the temple; you can use that to gain a quick lift. You got all that?"
"Uh-huh, yep. Got it." No, not really, not at all.
"I have your glider right here Teo." Lillia lightheartedly called out before crossing underneath its light tan wing to seize it, ready to mount it on Teo's chair. "Go on Katara, just carry the glider to the edge and leap off. Don't forget all of what I told you!" Her gut twisted. If I were listening completely. Ugh; I'm such an idiot!
"Thanks Lily." Teo called after her as Katara gingerly crept past him. The glider's wings loomed overhead, blocking out the sunlight as her arms fought against ever-constant wind pressing against the wings' canvas. Teo's wheels squeaked as he rolled across the stone, stopping closer behind her. "All you have to do is leap, the wind will carry you. It supports something inside you, something...even lighter than air – and that something takes over when you fly."
Standing on the precipice, she peered down – down, down, down to the thick layer of clouds and the rocky mountainside awaiting her fall far below. Ha ha ha... ha... yeah, uh...right now I'm just focused on that something that's keeping my feet right here on the ground! Oh I can't believe I'm chickening out...but, I can't. I just can't! She turned to her right, heaving the glider onto its side as she retained one hand on its bar to keep it from flying way.
"I've changed my mind. I think I was born without that something!" Her face contorted into an absolutely mortified expression, frowning at the clouds below that mocked the waterbender staring down at them.
Teo simply laughed humorously at her. It's not funny! "That's impossible! Everybody has it."
"Spirit." Aang suddenly declared. A spirit? She turned with sudden confusion to Aang.
"What?" Teo's voice beckoned, apparently with just as much confusion.
He lowered his staff, stepping to the downed wing of Katara's glider to lock his eyes on her. "That's the something you're talking about."
"Yeah...I suppose it is!" Teo replied joyfully as she turned to glance skyward. Spirit huh? Maybe I don't have any spirit. "Right behind you with your glider Teo, watch out!" Lillia warned.
"Katara." Aang softly called for her attention. She glanced across her glider's lime-green wings; setting her worry upon Aang's supportive gaze. "Don't be afraid. You'll love the air."
How can you be so sure? But she didn't contest, her heart fluttering on the verge of panic as she removed her attention from Aang and back to the clouds below. This is crazy. This is crazy! Reluctantly, she gripped the handlebar and lifted the glider back into position above her, her heart pounding so fiercely she felt her strained pulse within either side of her head, just beside her eyes.
"You ready?" Teo quickly questioned.
"No!" She shot back without hesitation, fearing the plunge. Just, trust the air...they do this all the time. Aang does this all the time. She ground her teeth together for a moment.
Agh! Okay Katara, if you don't do it now you never will! Just...just... She felt every hard pulse thump in her throat, suddenly leaping over the edge and throwing her legs back. She loosed a drawn out, fearful cry, tightening her gloves desperately on the glider's wooden rail.
I'm going to die! I'm going to die! Her scream only strengthened, echoing into the mountains and clouds below as the glider didn't even seem to be working. The wind slapped against her furiously as her arms shook like an arctic octo-jellypus' tentacles. All of her will forced her gloves' grip on the wooden bar to not release, even if it wasn't saving her life it was her only hope at survival.
This eternal moment suddenly ended as her glider pulled against her grip and lifted upward, racing away from the temple's walls. A wild rush overcame her as her stomach finally rejoined in her quick descent, leaving a tingling excitement that clouded her mind.Still trembling, but with a smile that felt as if it reached from ear to ear, she only just realized she was still screaming – no, her scream had become laughter without her realizing it.
I...I... Her sapphire eyes, wide like saucers, devoured the sight below her, before her, around her. There's nothing below me. Nothing! Elated, it just wasn't possible for her smile to grow any further. I'm flying! I'm really flying just like Aang!
That's when she realized she hadn't been alone. Teo's tan glider-chair zipped away out of the corner of her eyes. Her shaking arms steadied along with her glider, flying in a straight path away from the temple on a calm wind. "I can't believe I'm flying!" She shouted to the air, only to spot an orange blur to her right.
Glancing in surprise, she realized it was Aang. Has he been beside me all along too? Hahaha, I'm flying in the air with you! I can too! "Just make sure you keep your mouth closed so you don't swallow a bug!"
Momo sped just beside her left, snapping his jaws at the air itself before darting away behind her. So this is what it's like to be in the air. And I'm not alone here either! She glanced aside to Aang with glee. "Teo was right about the air. All I had to do was trust it! Let it carry me..."
Aang's mood had lifted with hers, evident by his joyous reply. "Even though Teo's not an airbender, he really does have the spirit of one!" I should have done this earlier; it's made Aang happy too! He whipped back, sailing toward the temple.
She inhaled the crisp, cold mountain air. Her shaking had finally ceased, leading her to gently lean her glider to her left and drift aimlessly back toward the temple as well. Mom, Dad, if only you could see me now! You wouldn't believe this!
Perched high in the air, she gazed freely toward the magnificent air temple. Wherever she directed her glider was her choice, no longer constrained to Appa's saddle. She soared above the second landing, noting that Teo and Aang had stopped flying and stood together.
We're done already? But...hm, wait a second. Her eyebrows lifted as a frown suddenly crossed her expression. Oh my gosh. They landed; but how can I? She shifted her legs, lifting one to test how it felt – and it felt dangerously like she could fall. "Wait!" She shouted as she came closer to the landing, passing beside it. "How do I land this thing?"
Staring at their small forms, she noted they were turned toward her attentively. Just beyond her was a long bridge that connected the eastern spire's sleeping chambers to the main temple. Hey; that gives me a lot of landing room... "What if I land over th–" It felt as if a pill flung into her mouth and slammed down her throat.
Gagging, she tried desperately to spit out whatever that was – but it was long gone, leaving a very unpleasant aftertaste. Oh ew. That...that had to be... "Blegh! Bug! Bug!" She paused, taking time to force another heavy cough, to no avail. "That was a bug..." She called out below, bringing her glider back around.
She shook her head to clear her mind of this incident. It's not going to kill you. Just, oh well...yuck. "So, any help with landing?"
"Just bring it down here, there's plenty of room!" Teo's voice echoed into the sky. Okay...but that doesn't help me with the 'how'. Teo and Aang left the long blue stone path, clearly pointing out that was where she should aim for.
Okay, now if I just... Katara turned to sail away from the temple, making room for her landing. She banked to her right, coming around to sail head-on for the blue landing zone. Alright, here I go... She lifted her legs, angling the glider down to descend for the second tier landing.
As she neared, with the wind becoming stronger against her cheeks and stinging her eyes, Teo waved his hands in the air emphatically. What? What? Am I doing something wrong? She ground her teeth together, her heart skipping a beat as she closed in on the stone below. Faster. Faster. I'm gaining speed!
Her gaze stretched the distance – staring down the farther hallway that she was inevitably going to go soaring down. This is going to hurt! She winced. But just then a heavy gale blasted directly into her face, tossing her hair loopies away and forcing her to close her eyes instinctively at its force. Ah! She lurched backward suddenly, nearly being thrown forward out of the glider, but her grip was strong enough to hold her back.
Reopening her eyes, she noticed she was gently dropping nearly straight down. What just happened...? Glancing directly below her, she saw Aang beaming a smile with his arms up toward her. "I got'cha, you're alright." Airbending...phew. Thanks, Aang.
Teo's laughter filled the air as she pulled her legs out of their catch, dropping to the stone tile. "I was expecting you were going to try to come in slow and land, not try to blaze through here like a viper-bat after a pigeon-hawk!"
Dropping the glider to the ground, she collapsed to her knees and released a vibrant breath, pressing her hands off her forelegs while panting heavily, relaxing her beating heart. "Well; I didn't know how to land. That wasn't exactly clear to me..."
"It's alright; you're safe." Aang stated. Lifting her blue eyes to meet his, she smiled and took his extended hand in hers, rising to her feet. "Come on; I promised Teo I would open the door that leads to the inner sanctuary."
Wow. This really did help his mood! "That's wonderful Aang." She exclaimed. I'm so glad you're okay with this now.
"Go on guys; I'll clean up here." Lillia's voice caught Katara's attention, turning just as she saw her share a brief hug with Teo. "I'll check it out later if I can, or you can just tell me what it was like."
"Alright Lily. See ya later!" Teo rolled his chair forward in pursuit of Aang. Remaining still for a moment longer, a smile crept on Katara's face as she peered at Lily curiously, who busied herself picking up the gliders as another friend came to assist her. Hm...
Hastening her steps to catch up to the duo ahead of her, she closed in to pace herself beside Teo in the dark hallway. "Lillia seems pretty friendly with you." She posed, seeing if this subtle statement would lead to more.
"Of course, she is my girlfriend after all." He chuckled openly, turning down the next dark hallway after Aang.
I knew it. She smiled warmly, filling her eyes with merriment. "She's very sweet. You should have asked Aang to wait for her. We would have let her come with us."
Teo afforded her a nonchalant shrug. "That's okay, she's not really all that curious what's in here, I've asked her before. She likes the wide open sky more than a closed up old room."
A sharp chuckle sounded as Aang glanced over his shoulder, nearing the great door at the end of the hallway. "Maybe there's something special about these mountains that makes everyone feel more connected with the air. You guys do seem to have a love for it."
"Thanks Aang, I appreciate that." Teo responded; glancing back to Katara as the trio stood before the towering door. "While she may not be curious...I, on the other hand..." He beamed a toothy grin. "I can't believe I'm finally going to see what's inside!"
Aang shifted, catching her attention as he reached back and lowered his legs, taking up an airbending stance. 'Airbending is the key,' right Aang? I wonder if they keep statues in here too. She watched and waited as he thrust forward with a quick spin, charging up a swift air current that he released directly into the door's organ pipes. The steady hiss of air sounded throughout the pipes before they erupted with harmonious notes of grandeur.
The doors creaked and gave way to its long forgotten master, steadily swinging back as a vibrant crimson hue shone beyond their reaches. Katara's eyes widened in dumbstruck confusion when she saw an immense red canvas at the center of the room; complete with a Fire Nation emblem. I'm seeing things. Tell me I'm seeing things.
The doors clanked fully open, ceasing their swing. The shine of metal caught her eye everywhere she turned. Spears, swords, shields, cogs and gears, the inner sanctuary reeked of Fire Nation. "This is a nightmare." Aang plainly stated, the three of them gazing in awe at the construction of this room.
"Aang..." Teo quietly began. "I had no idea this was here; I swear." He didn't answer, standing in silent wonder ahead of the two. This...here? Why is this here? Aang...
She had no words of comfort, petrified at the sight before her. This wasn't alright, she couldn't say it was. Fire Nation warfare had infiltrated the very depths of his temple. Of all the poison and filth that technology had brought this temple, none of it compared to the sorrow of his kind's murderers overtaking this haven.
Apparently she wasn't the only one in silent wonder, as what seemed a long minute passed with nary a word. Her eyebrows pressed upward, her arms loose at her side, unmoving.
"You don't understand!" A man's voice broke in from behind them.
Before she had time to turn to see who it was, Aang's voice shot out accusingly as he spun back to thrust a finger toward the man. "You're making weapons for the Fire Nation!"
She eyed Aang, a scowl contorting his face with a raging fire just behind his gray eyes. Aang's hand lowered as his lips twisted into a snarl. She swallowed hard, turning to stare at the guilty man who delayed giving a response for his accusation. Why would you do this? I thought you were a great father. How could you corrupt this world? What could make you do something like this?
"You make weapons for the Fire Nation?!" Sokka bellowed, having followed the man at his side.
"Explain all this! Now!" His own son, Teo, furiously demanded.
With his head hung low, Gonja's weighted tone answered his demands. "It was about a year after we moved here; Fire Nation soldiers found our settlement. You were too young to remember this tale; they were going to destroy everything! Burn it to the ground! I pleaded with them; I begged them to spare us!"
Gonja leaned forward as he explained himself, holding his hands out in earnest plea for understanding. "They asked me what I had to offer." Oh... She closed her mouth, staring in sorrow at the man who closed his eyes and tipped his head forward. "I offered; my services." Inwardly, she cringed. The mere words were poison, but he wasted no time lifting his voice to implore for his son's forgiveness. "You must understand; I did this for you..."
In response, the sound of Teo's wooden wheels twisting on the floor filled the room; shutting out his father. Katara was still frozen; arms limp at her side as she had become a silent observer of this madness unfolding before her eyes. Gonja hung his head, turning silently as he plodded away from this tragedy.
Well; I understand why you did it now, and it was still because you're a great dad. Her expression fell, slumping slightly forward as she cupped her hands together before her hips. But you don't really care for anyone else... She closed her eyes and sighed, thinking back to her own family.
He started making weapons before Mom died. I wonder if he didn't, if things would be different. Her eyebrows pressed firmly down. She lifted her gloved mitt, tapping its large double-fingered end against the teal stone of her necklace. A growing anger for this man suddenly overcame her, but led her to close her eyes quickly. No, no. Stop it, it wouldn't have changed anything. That wasn't his fault.
Teo's voice lifted, choked by his own tears. "I...I didn't know. Aang, Katara; I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have made you..."
She exhaled gently, releasing some of her stress as she reopened her eyes. Aang had already turned back to face Gonja's Fire Nation craft, fists taut as his stormy eyes seemed to boil over with wrath. Aang...calm down. Please.
She took a step closer, laying her mitt on his shoulder, immediately sensing a quake through his body at her touch. He jerked his shoulder away, tears of fury running from his pained eyes as he stepped further into the desecrated sanctuary. She dried her own misty eyes on her coat's sleeves, following a short few steps after Aang before standing to stare somberly at him.
"This is crazy!" Her brother's cry echoed through the chamber. "How could he do this?! He helps kill off the rest of the world to save just one person? How selfish is that!" Teo's wheelchair sounded again, as she noted he had turned toward Sokka. "No offense, not that your life is insignificant or anything."
"I understand what you meant." Teo responded lowly. The sound of his wooden wheels creaking echoed as he followed after the only two benders in the room. "Aang, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry. I know how you must feel about this, I-"
Staring at the still Air Nomad, his head bowed forward slightly at Teo's words, who halted abruptly as gasps surrounded her hearing. The sudden flash of white filled her eyes. "Aang!" She shouted, bolting forward instantly, but not fast enough to reach him before the mere flash of white dissipated as fast as it had arrived, returning his tattoo's familiar blue.
Behind him, she rested both her hands on either of his quivering shoulders, squeezing them tightly. "Can all of you just..." Aang cut in, hesitating for just a moment as his voice begged for sympathy. "Leave me alone, for now? Please."
She hesitated. Should I listen? He needs me...but...he might tear this whole room apart if I leave. Her heart broke as she frowned, stepping forward to press against his back and wrap her arms around his chest, squeezing his trembling body. "Okay. I don't like this either Aang, but please think of the position these people are in." She uttered softly resting the side of her head momentarily against his.
He shuddered, turning his head away from her as she issued him a final squeeze. Releasing him, she turned and followed after Teo and Sokka, who simply stared in quiet at the Air Nomad standing by his lonesome amidst Fire Nation wares.
She followed after the two with tears in her eyes, having no idea where they were going but simply walking in silence. Finally leaving the temple's long hallways, they emerged on an overhanging bridge that led to a western tower. In a moment Teo jerked his wheelchair's handbrake into place, stopping abruptly as he threw his arms to the air. "All of this, everything we've done here...all that my dad's built, he's been hurting the world!"
Sokka shrugged half-heartedly and turned to lean against the bridge's stone rail. "The Fire Nation's using you and the rest of the world hates you; yeah I'd say your dad's doing a great job. Then again, you're doing just fine here by yourselves."
Teo suddenly balled his fist and struck the side of his wheelchair; loosing a quick shout as he shook from his blow. I can't believe I'm not angry at Sokka for saying that. She approached Teo, laying her hand on the back of his chair before attempting to comfort him. "What your dad did was wrong; but because of him everyone here has been safe. He has your best interests at heart."
"But nobody else's." Teo quipped, hanging his head.
"We all knew, Teo." Huh? She spun back to see who this voice belonged to, but didn't recognize the brown-bearded man before her. "We've followed after him and helped in his designs since day one; with everything...the gliders, the bath house, the ventilation system, he had to have help to get all this done."
"And Lily? Does she know?" Teo nearly snarled his words out, leading the man's eyes to dim in sorrow as he shook his head.
"No, my daughter and every other child here were kept out of this. We didn't want you to have to bear our burden." He placed his hand over his mouth, clearing his throat as his hand glided down his beard. "She may be your girlfriend, but I ask that you not bring any of this up with her or the others here."
"Forget it! I'm going to tell her anyway. She should know; everyone should know!" Teo warned, narrowing his eyes.
Oh; my. Katara backed away, pressing against the stone rail beside her brother. He turned his cringing face to her and muttered beneath his breath. "Boyfriend issues. Stay. Out." She nodded nervously in agreement.
Lillia's father's lips tugged into a frown, stretching his arms out before him. "Teo; think about it. What good would everyone knowing do? The Fire Nation has come to expect this of us. If we suddenly cut them off; they're going to retaliate."
"This has to stop." Aang's voice demanded as he stepped up behind the man. He twisted back to stare at the young boy, who locked his gray eyes upon him in return. "You guys wrecking my people's history is one thing. But I will not tolerate this temple becoming corrupted like this."
Aang. Her eyes widened as she leaned back against the stone rail. Do you even know what you're suggesting? "I agree." Teo responded, staring at the man as if he were supposed to provide them an answer.
He sighed, dipping his head as he ran the palm of his hand down his face again. "Fine. Take it up with Gonja if you must; but be careful about it. Our quota is due today."
"I'm going with you." Teo declared, lifting his chair's brake to turn after Aang. "Come on, let's settle this now."
Aang set his eyes upon Katara and her brother, softening his expression as he did so. "You guys stay here. We'll come right back afterward." Her eyes dipped to the stone bridge, keeping from replying as she consented to his wish. What's going to happen? This is serious.
She watched patiently as the two disappeared into the long hallway, making their way for whatever calamity would come of this situation. Releasing a heavy, stressful sigh, she decided to make the most of her time at the moment. "You'll never guess what I was doing earlier." She calmly uttered, leaning over the stone rail of the bridge.
"Too easy." Sokka quipped coolly, turning his back to the stone to prop his elbows off it. "Waterbending."
"Uh...no. I wasn't telling you to try guessing." She raised an eyebrow and turned to him. Come on, you'd never get it.
"Hm..." He tipped his head her direction, turning his blue eyes upon hers. "Okay; you were faking airbending."
Whoa. "Okay; I take that back. You could guess what I was doing." She smiled playfully; struck dumb he had actually guessed it. "Well kind of. I was flying."
"Come again?" He turned toward her, bracing his right elbow off the rail. "Like; leaping over the side of a bridge fly? I said faking it not doing it."
Shadows darted overhead as three lime-green gliders soared over the bridge, winding their way to the front of the temple. The breeze they brought tossed her hair braid after them, as likewise her index finger jabbed in their direction. "There! Fly like that!"
"Ah." He twisted his head after the gliders, leaning over the rail before glancing at her from the corner of his eyes. "You should ask Aang for your very own glider." He teased with a smirk. "You sure are interesting. What's next, firebending? You're your very own Avatar."
Ha. Ha. She rolled her eyes, glancing away from him. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm just saying; I've never seen someone try to change what they could bend as much as you have. First you became an earthbender for Haru, now you pretend to be an airbender with Aang." His smirk only widened, warranting a sidelong glare from her. If this is another dating joke I'll... "Oh lighten up. I'm just messing with you."
She closed her eyes and shook her head dismally before glancing down to the snowy cliffs below. "Aang also taught me how to play pai sho. It's actually kind of neat."
"Neat how?" He questioned oddly.
Affording him a shrug, she nonchalantly continued. "It makes you think. And it's fun being able to compete with somebody. And..." A faint smile formed, twisting her eyes to glance at him. "They have all kinds of Water Tribe tiles, even Kalao."
"Hm." His expression contorted curiously, lifting his hand to massage his chin. "Now that is interesting."
"Mm hmm." She turned back to the cliffs below, softening her features with a warm smile. "So what have you been doing all morning?"
"Me?" He questioned dumbly as if he were terribly surprised. What? Do you find it odd that I would ask about you? "I've been productive, actually doing stuff instead of goofing around. Y'know, being a man." A smirk played on his lips as he straightened himself to stand upright.
I'm sorry I asked. She lamented, rolling her eyes again. Slumping over the rail, her chin settled into her outstretched arms sullenly. "I solved some problems Gonja was having." He continued calmly.
She barely bothered lifting her head, but did so just enough to keep from muffling her glum voice into her gloves. "Like what?"
"This whole place is in danger of blowing up." He explained carelessly with an upturned wave of his hand. "Heaps of gas is welling up beneath it."
Sounds like someone else I know. She snorted softly to herself, but hid this behind her gloves. Okay; that was tasteless. Glad I didn't say that. "This place could blow at any minute?"
"Well no, it'd need a spark or something. Anyway, I started the idea of filling the cellar with rotten eggs to find out where the gas is escaping." He waved his hand out over the side of the bridge aimlessly. "All that's left is to fill it up with the eggs to get started."
Rotten eggs... Her eyes shifted toward him, tilting her head to lift her mouth from her gloves. "Where did you come up with that?"
"Hey; whatever works." He shrugged before joining her, settling down atop the rail. "But I won't give him any more help unless he listens to Aang."
A smile danced across her lips, lifting her head from her arms to set her attention thoughtfully upon her brother. "Thanks Sokka."
"Hey; if he wants to play Fire Nation, he's gonna make an enemy of me." He rapped the knuckles of his three-fingered glove against the stone.
"Still..." She continued solemnly. "I don't know. I mean, lives may depend on this. Maybe you should help anyway." He merely shrugged his shoulders, lowering his eyelids to gaze over the distant clouds and mutter something of agreement.
The creak of wheels sounded in the distance, preceding Teo and Aang's appearance at the bridge's entrance to close in on the Water Tribe siblings. That was fast. She mused, straightening herself as she followed after her brother, who made to join them. It was only like what, ten, fifteen minutes? What happened?
As all four familiar faces conjoined together, Aang glanced from brother to sister. "Well, that part's over. This is just the beginning."
"Beginning of what?" Katara questioned, lifting her eyebrows in fear that she may know the answer. The Fire Nation is coming.
"A Fire Nation officer arrived while we were there, demanding our quota from my dad. Aang kind of called the whole deal off."
"Oh no." Sokka's arms fell to his side, eyes widening.
Aang stopped this himself? He spoke with the Fire Nation directly? This isn't good! "You did?" She declared in surprise. "They're going to come here in full force for the people here, but also for you!" They're going to try to kill you Aang!
"Yeah." Teo stated softly. "That's right. This temple is going to be attacked...just like dad said, the guy threatened to burn the place to the ground."
"This is bad. Very bad!" Sokka declared loudly.
Do you have any idea what you've done? "Aang! What are we gonna do?!" She declared in shock, lifting her gloved hands to beg for her answer. "How can we possibly keep them all away?"
"I'll tell ya how." He quipped assuredly, lifting his finger to the skies. "We have something they don't! Air power." He turned, dropping his hands to the stone rail of the bridge to gaze up to his element. Really? You have that much faith in this? Maybe, perhaps you're right. If we can fight from the sky... She smiled, thinking of the advantages. "We control the sky. That's something the Fire Nation can't do. We can win!""I want to help." Gonja's voice sounded from the end of the bridge. This is it. She turned from the man as Aang took charge.
"Good. We'll need it." This is really it. I hope you know what you're doing Aang. She locked her eyes on the side of his head, staring worriedly at the thought of the battle to come.
"Alright!" Sokka shot out and threw his hands to the air, passing the group to join Gonja. "Let's get busy crackin' out some fixes and ideas! The Fire Nation won't know what hit them, unless they look up that is!"
Her nerves quivered, leading her to shake lightly as she pondered what it would be like to be in complete open war with the Fire Nation. Will we be strong enough? I don't know if there are even benders here! Air power...they'll be useful, but, I should be ready just in case. "Well, if we're going to fight, we may as well get some more practice in."
Aang glanced aside to her, returning her a slow nod. "What used to be the garden has plenty of snow. Maybe we could use that."
"Mind if I watch?" Teo piped in, rolling closer. "I've never seen bending before."
"Really? You haven't?" Wow...not only are there no benders, they've never even seen bending. Just great. "Of course you can watch, Teo." She gave him a smile, though her heart sank wondering how they would react to the coming firebending.
By nightfall, she and Aang sat alone beside his table, waiting for her brother to finally join them. This... was a full, day. She mused, rubbing her upper arms which were sore from hours straight of bending. Her legs likewise had caved when she had sat down beside the table, nearly falling to the floor to her weariness at the time.
"Aang, did you notice the people here haven't even seen bending before?" She questioned with worry coating her tone.
"That was just Teo. I'm sure others have seen it, after all they did meet the Fire Nation at some point." He dismissively shrugged, flipping the pages of his tattered songbook.
"Oh. Yeah; good point. Still, I hope you're right about all this."
"I'm sure we'll be fine. They won't even make it up the mountain with us claiming the skies." His gray eyes wandered out the open window, a smile dancing upon his face as he seemed to be absorbing that thought.
Uh...Aang? She raised an eyebrow, staring at him in wonder. Are you actually enjoying the idea of fighting? Or, ah, no...I think I get it. "You can't wait to share the skies again."
His smile only broadened. "It has been awhile."
She leaned back, settling on her legs with her arms loosely atop her lap. Good. I'm glad you can experience this again. "Even though Air Nomads are gone from the world, at least you can still fly with people who appreciate that history."
"Katara; how can you be so sure?" Concern weighted his tone as his eyes made his way to meet hers. Please, don't do this to yourself, Aang... "Think about it. An airbender could easily have hidden among these non-benders, or anywhere else in the surrounding mountains. The Fire Nation couldn't have killed them all, some would have run away, and others wouldn't have even been at the temple."
"But Aang, a hundred years have passed and nobody has heard of an Air Nomad since. Please; if you go to the other air temples; don't let yourself be hurt when we don't find them there." She paused, lowering her attention to the worn table. Both times we've been to an air temple has hurt you...I don't want to see you go through that again.
He groaned, slumping over to rap his fingers on the edge of the dilapidated table. I'm sorry.
"Did ya miss me?" Sokka cut in suddenly through the doorway. Pivoting back in surprise, she cringed in disgust as his stench wafted into the room.
"Sokka? What on earth? You smell...horrible!" She clenched her nose closed fiercely.
Aang shook his head in protest, lolling his tongue out helplessly against their scented assailant. "Whoa, it smells like you've rolled around in a pig-chicken farm..."
Sokka smugly lifted an eyebrow, frowning as his eyes darted once from each of his spectators. "Hey. I've done a lot today, give me a break. And yes this smell is eggs, rotten ones actually."
"You could have at least taken another bath! Wow!" Aang waved his hand dismissively.
"Tell me you've done more than move rotten eggs." Katara stared dejectedly to her supposedly dimwitted brother. "At least Aang and I have trained waterbending for the coming battle."
"Of course, there's this design that I...wait; why is that a bad thing? Think about it! Firebenders are coming. If we don't plug up the gas leak, they could ignite this whole place and we'd be blown off the mountain. It's important!"
Oh gosh. She cringed immediately. "Alright; I can see that now. Good thinking."
"Besides, of course you two would splash around. You probably have the Northern Water Tribe on your mind anyway." Sokka jeered, kicking out his bedroll as he sat down upon it. Her eyebrows shot up instantly in surprise, glancing to Aang as if to gauge his belief. He simply stared at her.
Excuse me? She blinked, turning back to Sokka. "We have to win this battle! If we lose to the Fire Nation now; the world will lose Aang. Do you know the damage that would cause? We have to get him to the North Pole to start training waterbending. The world is counting on us!" Of course I get to learn too but...well, that's beside the point. Or so she told herself.
"We'll be fine Katara." Aang quietly added, bringing her to turn to his idle stare. "I promise. We'll make it through this."
How can you promise what you don't know? She sighed, leaning away from the table to roll out her fur sleeping bag. "Okay. Let's get some rest. There's no telling when the Fire Nation will be here." However, she afforded a half-turn to gaze rudely at Sokka. "Maybe you could sleep on the terrace tonight though...you really do smell bad."
The following morning was just like the one before; except that even Sokka was missing. She rolled her eyes into the back of her head, flopping back down into her fur roll miserably. Okay fine; just leave me. What, did I sleep in or something?
She glanced out the window cutout in the stone wall, staring longingly toward the open sky. It wasn't late in the morning; the others had simply gotten up earlier and left her there. Why didn't they wake me up? She straightened her head, turning her eyes to the stone ceiling. I wonder what they're up to.
After reaching the common room to begin a hearty meal, Lillia had her sit at a table and await her cooking bacon and sausage. Teo. Katara rolled her eyes playfully, leaning back in her chair. I guess you either forgot it was there or didn't want to cook that? Heh; boys will be boys. Maybe he can't cook. She snickered, shaking her head merrily.
She noted the brown-haired girl approaching her steadily, four plates balanced on her arm and two cups in her hands. Whoa. I wouldn't dare try that. "Here we go, breakfast for two." Lillia greeted kindly, slowly moving to set down their meals.
Katara inhaled steadily, taking in the warm, juicy scent of the well prepared meat separated among different dishes. Aang would die watching me eat this. She couldn't help but grin like an idiot at the thought. "You're pretty talented; I'd probably drop everything if I tried that."
"I did for awhile." She joked as they began their meal. "You should have been here an hour ago, that's usually when everyone is together to eat. I feel like a regular waitress over at Ba Sing Se when that happens." She paused, tilting her fork downward to glance up thoughtfully. "Not that I've ever been there. Oh well."
"Oh, by the way." She continued, twisting her fork about to point it toward Katara. "Your cute brother and Gonja called a meeting in his office at the western tower this evening. Make sure to be there."
Cute?! She's with Teo! How could she...and with Sokka, wow! Her eyebrows lifted in wonder. "Okay; thanks, I'll be sure to attend it. Say; I heard you were dating Teo...is that true?" I'll catch her...
"Was." Lily singly replied. Oh. That fast? I shouldn't have asked... "He showed up last night and things got a little out of hand. Dad told me I wasn't to date him anymore."
Oh my gosh. "That's awful!" Katara exclaimed, laying her utensils down to set her palms beside her plate on the table. "And you're just going to listen to him?"
"Yeah well, ahem." She idly ran her fingers through her long, straight brown hair, setting her eyes of brown upon Katara. Clearly her eyes masked the sadness to this; though her tone made to shove off the topic immediately. "Don't worry about it. Anyway; Aang and Teo took to the skies to do some scouting earlier. They should be getting back before long; but they're going to be busy with the volunteers to fight in this battle."
Fight. Her eyes drifted to her plate, staring through the warm, round sausage patties on it. "Hello? You okay?" Lily furthered.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Katara responded, picking up her fork to proceed with her breakfast. However, her lie did not sit well with her, unable to finish preparing her next bite. "No, I'm not." Her icy eyes lifted to the girl fretfully. "Do you even have any idea what the Fire Nation is capable of? I do. I've witnessed a raid before."
Mom. Her index finger slipped up to rest on her necklace, closing her eyes and tipping her head forward. "Well, honestly no, we don't. But we aren't clueless to fighting." Huh? Katara reopened her misty eyes, raising them to catch a certain mischievous wonder in Lily's. "We've fought off pirates, thieves and wild animals to name a few. We've grown accustomed to fighting in the air and have an assortment of bombs ready. Gonja saw to that."
"Really? You've done all that fighting?" She questioned in surprise, straightening to sit upright.
"Well no, only a few of us have ever done that. Teo is one of them, so have I."
But, you just...oh never mind. "Fighting the Fire Nation may be different. They can be ruthless, much crueler than a group not supported by a whole nation. I don't know..." She lowered her eyes to her plate, gently running her fingertips along its smooth edge. "Fighting them head on isn't something to take lightly. You need an army for that!"
Lily laughed softly, shaking her head in answer. "You haven't seen us in action. Don't worry; they won't even make it to the temple, especially with the Avatar leading the aerial defense. Show some faith."
Show some faith? Her eyebrows knotted into her forehead. I guess I should. Yes, I am being negative... She took another bite. Well, realistic but negative. Still; it's not helping, we have to face this no matter what so don't waste time worrying. "Uh; you alright?" Lily broke into Katara's inner discussion.
"Oh! Yes, I'm fine. Sorry." Gosh. Even Sokka is preparing for this. I wonder if he's nervous. Hah, no, probably not. As a warrior he probably is looking forward to it.
"You really are worked up over this. Just relax Katara, everyone's on board for this."
She had ups, she had downs, ranging from worry for the coming battle to not being worried at all. It was a trying experience to know that she was about to face the Fire Nation on the battlefield. This was different than always being in hiding or on the run.
However, there was something else as well; something that comforted her. She smiled, wrapping the water about her in a slow circle almost playfully. Aang has really stepped up and taken charge of this. He's going to see this through, I know it.
She attempted to imagine that boy she freed from the iceberg doing this; with that innocent wide-mouthed smile. She couldn't.
She tried to imagine the boy at Kyoshi Island, so self-indulged in show-boating, doing this. She couldn't.
Then she thought of the boy who had run away, admitting his deepest regrets to her and only her, pained that he had turned his back on the world. The way he had come around, releasing his sorrow like falling water.
She tried to imagine Aang doing this, having come to know who he was.
You really are changing. I'm proud of you. Yet it fascinated her how he could still be so playful throughout all of this. With these curiosities, she continued her dance with water.
The day had stretched on; it was time for the meeting. Having already eaten her lunch, her footsteps now carried her closer to Gonja's laboratory as evening drew on. Ahead of her she caught sight of Aang and Teo amidst a crowd of these Air Walkers, or so she had grown accustomed to calling them.
She sped up, bending through the crowd to join their side as they entered through the room's wooden door. "Hey Katara. I wondered where you were." Aang posed as the door swung open.
"Yeah; I was practicing my waterbending." A shush sounded from someone in the crowd. What? What's wrong?
"Welcome! Welcome! Do come in and close that door behind you." Gonja called out in his usual antics, beckoning them in with his arms.
As the door latched shut behind them, she crossed the threshold as the crowd encircled Gonja's table, Sokka at his side. A small candle sat burning on its surface with a model beside it. Is that...some, well, what is it? A balloon?
"Quick question before we begin." Gonja uttered, clasping his hands behind his back. "Has anyone smelled rotten eggs lately?"
Silence. She glanced to Aang, who grinned playfully as he whispered. "Only on Sokka." Rich. She chuckled quietly, turning her smile back to the man.
"Oh, doodle-dust." He muttered dejectedly. "It was worth asking. We finished filling the cellar with rotten eggs, but sadly we haven't found the gas leak yet. We'll just have to hope the Fire Nation doesn't find it first."
"But thank you to everyone who helped carry as much of the eggs as you could." Sokka continued. "You were all a great help." A few mutters and You're welcomes filled the air as the crowd shuffled in around her.
"Now for our battle plans." Gonja continued, turning his head to the boy beside him.
"We're going to mainly hold an aerial defensive. Aang will be doing his airbending goodness while the others will be dropping bombs from above. If we pull this off right, the Fire Nation soldiers won't even have the chance to make it up the mountain. And if that isn't enough, we have a secret weapon..." He grinned pridefully.
"We finally got the war balloon working thanks to Sokka. This boy's a genius!" Gonja explained as he patted the Water Tribe warrior's back. Uh-huh...
"Thank you..." Sokka replied gleefully, lifting his hand to point to Gonja and exclaiming in return. "You're a genius!"
"Thank you!" Gonja retorted joyously.
You're kidding, right? She turned a dubious expression to Aang at her side as he lifted a pair of glum gray eyes to meet hers. Two peas in one pod, huh? "See; the problem with the old war balloon-" She set her attention back on her brother, watching as he set the burning candle beneath the model war balloon. "-was you could get it airborne, but once you did it just kept going!"
Riding the hot air from the candle, the small model lifted itself to the top of the room and bumped against the ceiling. Hm. Good example. She stared at it attentively as Sokka took its string in his hand, tugging it back to the table. "You could put a hole in the top, but then all the hot air would escape! So the question became; How do you keep a lid on hot air?"
Too easy. She smirked and turned to her friend. "Ugh; if only we knew." The Air Nomad smiled warmly to her, breaking into a hushed chuckle with her as well as Teo who apparently had overheard her joke.
"A lid is actually the answer!" Sokka shouted through the crowd proudly as he pulled the model's drawstring, lifting a demonstration lid. "If you control the hot air, you control the war balloon."
You came up with this? "Hm." She crossed her arms before openly praising her brother's wit. "That's actually pretty smart."
Sokka carried right on to his next point, raising his hands to number off each finger. "Okay, we have four kinds of bombs. Smoke, slime, fire, and..."
"Stink!" Gonja shot in with an upraised index finger. "Never underestimate the power of stink." Are you planning on dropping Sokka on the Fire Nation? She grinned mischievously, but there was no need to drag the Sokka jokes out any further.
Sokka continued, by now it was becoming obvious the two had a knack for finishing each other's thoughts. "Depending on the types of bomb, each glider can carry between eight to twelve bombs. Fire is the most destructive, but also our most limited bomb so be sparing with that. We're going to need someone in the sky to resupply everyone while staying out of sight above clouds. What better way than on Appa?"
Not a bad idea, but who- "Katara, you're just the person for the task." He finished. What? She dropped her arms back to her side, parting her mouth to stare in wonder at him.
"Why? I can fight too. You need everyone you can get."
"Sadly gliders are limited." Gonja returned, closing his eyes and dipping his head apologetically.
"And we need experienced pilots, because they may have to be dodging fire. I don't want you out there, Katara." Sokka finished.
Fine. She lowered her eyes in defeat, sighing thoughtfully. Why did I train so hard if we're going to be fighting from the sky anyway? I guess Sokka really did have this whole thing planned out. What good am I?
The door swung open in a mad rush. "Gonja, sir!" A friend of Teo's shouted. "The Fire Nation has been spotted at the base of the mountain; they're on the way up!" Katara ground her teeth together in sudden panic. Here we go...our finest hour.
"Already?!" Sokka slapped the burning candle to the table, squeezing out its flame.
"Meeting adjourned!" Gonja followed. "Sokka and I will work with my crew to get our war balloon airborne for the coming assault." He extended his index finger triumphantly to the air again "Everyone to position, hold your ground!" A look of momentary perplexion overcame him as he lowered his hand. "Er, air!"
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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