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Golly. Finally leaving the Northern Air Temple. =o Should I just leave the notes at that? Heh. Actually I think it's interesting they mention four types of bombs but we never really get to see all of them. By the looks of it, we see slime + fire. Oh, and smoke, I think - at the very beginning of the fight. (not here) - but, where's the stink? Is it supposedly part of another bomb? Oh well whatever. Heh heh.
Did anybody notice Sokka's actually been carving in canon for various episodes? He didn't just up and "oh where did he come up with this" when he gave Yue that weird carving. He probably had it laying around or he specially finished one just for her.
Oh and, 'Northward Bound' is a homage to a movie of a somewhat similar name, if you catch it.
Aang, Katara, Appa, Momo, Teo, Lillia (fanon), Momo, Sokka, Gonja (fanon), Lillia's father (fanon), Storyteller's Great Grandfather
Mention Only: Kya, Hakoda, Storyteller, Kalao (spirit, fanon)
Second Tier Landing (first location in episode), Northern Air Temple, Ruined Gardens, Earth Kingdom Village (north of Northern Air Temple), Glacial Gorge (fanon)
Mention Only: Cellar
Objects... (of interest?)
- Bombs (Slime, Fire)
- War Balloon
- Aang's map
- Sokka's various carvings. (He's been carving in canon for awhile. :) Winter Solstice as well as Northern Air Temple)
Lifting another small box of four slime bombs, a gust of wind wrenched it from her hands and into the air. Aang snatched the crate as it reached him, spinning back to lay it beside others in Appa's saddle. Teo's younger friends, their parents and grandparents all stood on the second tier landing, having helped in the collection, packing and passing of these resupply crates.
"Alright, I think that's enough." Aang answered as the assembly line ceased their productivity. Katara placed her mitts together, lifting her blue eyes to Aang atop his bison's furry white head. "Listen up everyone; for those of you staying behind, this is going to be our command point. For those of you flying, if you have to back out for any reason, come back here."
"Got it." Teo chimed behind her in response.
"Teo and I will take the lead. Katara-" Aang lifted his hand, pointing his staff beyond her. "You'll be beside the mountain, above the clouds, just out of sight. We're going to have to be fast and accurate." He stated firmly, gripping his staff back in both of his hands. "Make each bomb count to force the Fire Nation back down the mountain."
For a moment, all was quiet. Aang dropped to seat himself on Appa's head while Katara turned to face the ledge of the landing. Okay Sokka; you put a lot of work into this, now everyone knows this plan by heart. So, where's your secret weapon? Voices began to murmur all around her, with Fire Nation being two words often repeated among them.
"Lillia, I hope you know what you're doing." Her father implored desperately. "You shouldn't have to be doing this; that should be me out there."
"This is our best defense dad, and I'd like to see you try and fly. Just leave it to us." Likewise, many parents were also fretting with their children. Teo rolled forward, between her and Appa, and turned his chair back to face down the runway in preparation.
"Do you still wish you could fight with us?" Teo quietly questioned, lifting his brown eyes to her.
Well kind of...but Sokka's right, I don't think I would be very good at it. She shook her head. "That's okay. You guys need me to do this." She glanced up to Aang, who had waited patiently on Appa's head. "I'll help however I can."
"They're coming!" A little girl cried out by the tier's ledge. A sudden hush overcame the crowd as many terrified sets of eyes turned toward one another. It's time...
"Are we ready?" Teo questioned aloud, returning his attention to her. What, me? Why are you asking me? Well yes I am.
Katara glanced down to Teo nervously, quickly returning her searching eyes for her brother. "Yes, but where's Sokka with the war balloon?!"
Aang's yellow-orange blur caught her attention as he drifted to the stone floor ahead of her. "We'll have to start without him." As he set his staff down, he snapped its glider-wings open while Momo suddenly perched atop its end.
Oh how long are you going to be? We need you! "Coming with your glider, Teo." Lillia called out with another girl at the other end of its large wings. Teo didn't respond, turning to glance over his shoulders to give her a thankful smile.
"Be careful out there." She caught Teo quietly state, holding his gaze upon Lily as she finished mounting Teo's glider to his chair. Katara glanced away with a tug of a frown. He still cares about her. She shook her head, crossing to stand behind Teo while Lily only turned away to take her place among the thirteen Air Walkers.
She laid her hands on the back of Teo's chair, who gestured thumbs up to his partners. Aang ran his eyes across his comrades with a seemingly elated smile overtaking him. You really are loving this; flying with everyone. Hm...stay focused Aang. Please, please stay focused.
He whipped around and lifted his kite over his head, eyeing the distance a moment before leaping to the air. It's time. She gripped Teo's wooden chair's corners and charged, pushing him quickly to the edge before releasing him to the wind. She leapt aside and lifted her arm proudly as others took off beside her. The entire crowd had broken into cheers and threw their arms to the air in support for their younger winged warriors.
Okay, my turn! She ran back to Appa, who groaned and slid his large tail down for her to climb. With a running leap over the saddlebags, she landed roughly into the back of the saddle on her hands and knees. "Appa; yip-yip!"
The large bison loosed a rumbling roar, kicking off the ground with his six legs as he took to the skies. Katara gingerly rose to her feet, gripping the reigns that were stretched to their limit into the saddle. I'm not useless, I just wish I could do more to help. They have to do everything. She mused, noticing Momo beside her in the air with his wings in stretched wide. "You're coming to help me too?" She added with a smile.
All was quiet. She had watched the last of the winged warriors disappear into the clouds just a moment ago, now sitting silently in the middle of Appa's saddle. Her breathing was shallow, listening attentively for the faintest sign of what was happening below but hearing nothing.
A series of loud explosions shook the air. Her head snapped directly left, gazing to the clouds but seeing nothing still. What resembled an unceasing roar filled the sky as she felt her own stomach quiver from whatever was falling below. What's going on? That sounds like...the mountain is falling!
Shouts and voices crying out caught her ear, distantly. Whatever was happening, the Fire Nation seemed to be getting the worst of it. She climbed to her feet, peering ever closer as the clouds slowly parted for only a moment, revealing a team of Air Walkers soaring toward her quickly. "Slime!" They shouted.
Slime, slime... She bent over and seized a heavy bag out of a nearby box with both her gloves, heaving it into the air as the warrior flew overhead to snatch it from her hands. She bent to grab another, but upon raising back she noticed the other member had already been served by Momo.
She blinked, lowering the bag ahead of her chest to curiously eye the lemur. He only stared back plainly, tilting his little head to one side. Gosh. You really are smart sometimes. I didn't expect you would really help me. "Hey!"
"Right!" Oops! She shot the bag to the air just as a passerby caught it, flying away to return to the fight.
She, with the help of Team Momo, resupplied a further handful of warriors. Lifting another upright she lost balance as Appa roared, reared back in surprise. Without even time to think, her bag of slime soared over the saddle's edge and let out a terrified scream, seizing the saddle's rim for dear life.
I hate flying! I hate flying! Or rather, she hated the idea of falling. She lost her grip as Appa bucked and tossed quickly, dodging a series of metal chains with solid spike as they burst unseen through the clouds. Catching air, she was flung above the saddle and fell into the saddlebags, tumbling to the hard leather below with a thump.
Shaking with panic, she rolled over and laid her hands on the large bags that had saved her life, peering just overtop them to glance at what they were fleeing from. Taut chains clung to the side of the mountain, protruding ominously from the clouds below.
Green canvas whipped overhead as further fliers soared past her. She quickly caught some of their eyes, terrified. I left my post! We're losing ground! She glanced back to the saddle, many boxes were missing. They probably fell over the side with their hasty retreat. Oh no, no. I even failed at this! No! I'm sorry!
Turning back, she watched a set of the gliders disappear beneath the clouds, followed quickly by a series of quick explosions. "Fire!" A voice shouted to the sky as gliders popped up. She glanced around apprehensively as if to see the Fire Nation, but only saw open skies and a remaining few bombs strewn about the saddle.
Oh, fire! Fire bombs! She dropped to her knees and snatched the remaining few stick-like bombs laying in the saddle, leaping to hold them upright. "That's the last of them. I'm sorry!" The boy seized them from her hands and whipped his glider around to return to the battle.
She ran a short few steps to the front of the saddle, dropping to skid to her knees and grab the reigns. "Appa let's go back!" He roared in protest as she tugged the reigns. "Oh come on Appa, please? Everyone's back there!" With a low groan he slowly began to drift to his left, winding overtop the cliff's snowy edge to approach the battlefield.
Her mouth fell open. Yes, that was a battlefield. Large metal boxes with wheels had ascended the cliff and were now rolling toward the temple with Fire Nation troops in tow behind them. Fire and smoke sailed through the skies as gliders flitted to and fro in effort to not become a flying, human torch.
She gripped the saddle's edge tightly, sitting so tense she hadn't even realized Teo sail in by her side. The boy she had aided dropped his last set of fire bombs, sending up a blast of smoke as they exploded on the metal boxes. Her eyebrows lifted, grating her teeth as she saw the effects, or rather the lack thereof. That didn't even slow them down!
That's when Aang dropped down from the skies, landing among a cluster of these metal flamethrowers. Yes! Stop them Aang! She mentally cheered as Aang underhand swung his staff to send five tanks airborne and feet away, landing upside down.
Her happiness died away in an instant. Every machine he flipped over simple began rolling forward again as if he hadn't even touched them, resuming their billow of black smoke. Aang suddenly was on the defensive, crying out furiously as he struck away numerous fire blasts all directed at him. No, no! She scanned the skies for help, but the skies were empty. Sokka was nowhere in sight with their secret weapon and the last Air Walker in the skies was fleeing for their command post.
Aang... He was alone on the battlefield, surrounded by Fire Nation. Yet his determination carried him on, leaping atop a Fire Nation machine to continue dodging the blasts aimed for him. Only she and Teo remained in the skies. "Those things are unstoppable!" She called out to Teo as they sailed closer.
If we don't come up with something...Aang! I don't want to think about it. Her breathing quickened as her mind continued to race. "I think I know how they work." He gained her undivided attention. "I remember my dad tinkering with a counter-balancing system...something to do with water." He lifted his eyes from the machines, smiling to her playfully. "Works great huh?" Wh-what...?
She cleared her mind of this. One word captured her attention above everything else, one word that called out to her. "Water?!" That's it Katara. That's their secret. She leaned over the saddle's edge, peering down to Aang as the machines all began to converge on his location. I'm coming Aang. Her heart fluttered, nervous but feeling it was within her to save him. "Can you get me close to one?"
"No problem!" Those both were and weren't the words that she wanted to hear. You're being way too happy about this... She mused as he sailed closer to the saddle. "Hop on, but remember I can't land so you're going to have to jump."
It doesn't matter. I'm standing with Aang. I won't ever abandon him or anyone else! She rose to her feet, determination welling within her as she forced all her fear away. She leapt out of the saddle and into the air, grabbing the back of Teo's chair and cramming her feet against its lower wooden lip for balance. "Take me down!"
"Hang on!" He swooped low quickly, closing in on the fire blasts and gusts of wind kicking up thick patches of snow.
As they closed in on Aang, her breathing had fully steadied; adrenaline and willpower stiffening her muscles forcibly. I can't fail. I won't fail. She told herself repeatedly, releasing Teo's chair to drop several feet through mid-air. She landed just beside Aang, dropping to catch herself on one knee.
Okay Fire Nation! You want to play with water? You'll regret using my element against us! She immediately rose to her feet and lifted her arms, inhaling strongly to draw in the frigid cold. A chilling cold crawled down her throat and into her lungs, swiftly lowering her body temperature and climbed her raised arms.
Everywhere around her, she felt an icy presence. A lingering feeling of cold loomed deep below her, sharing the chill of the snowy terrain surrounding her. She became aware of its wet coldness surrounding her, beneath her feet, beneath the machines. She had no idea how the water was used within these machines, unable to even feel it was there, but she had to try.
The machine ahead of her seemed intent on running her over, approaching her quickly. Just freeze it all! Finishing taking in the chill of the area, she knelt close to her element, cupping her frigid arms ahead of her to release her glacial breath. Her limbs warmed swiftly, blood rushing through her as the frigid air raced from her lungs to leave her body.
Her sub-zero breath encountered the wet snow below, drawing its moisture to the surface as misshapen ice sprang to life and reached toward the oncoming machine. The metal monster rolled directly through the clustered crags.
The machine sat among the ice, paralyzed, but not broken. However, impacting this sub-zero cloud chilled the water within, giving her exactly what she needed, not that it had been her goal. I feel it! Pride welled within her as she couldn't see it, but felt exactly where the water was being used.
She rose from her crouch, drawing all the cold from the ice surrounding this metal monster to freeze the water within it solid. She felt its pressure building; clearly expanding beyond its limits before a series of loud pings echoed into the sky and burst small bolts and metal pieces into the air.
Whoa. She lowered her arms ahead of her and eyed the machine curiously as its spiked wheels fell straight off of it, immobilized. Hah! That was easy. The sudden rattle of chains to her right caught her by surprise, turning to spot Aang use his staff to slap down a spiked chain that had been shot by one of these rolling beasts. Okay, I need to pay more attention...She turned her back to the machine and lifted her arms, closing her eyes. Come on, feel it Katara. She swung her arms to her right once, allowing her chi to run through her muscles as she sensed where her bending was leading. Water. She felt it within the machine as if it were a giant water skin.
She brought her arms back, proceeding into a second swing and twisted her body after them. This time she heaved her arms to the air, stiffening her muscles to reach beneath the ground and lift a towering chunk of mangled ice. It stretched beneath this giant water skin, heaving it into the air as she lifted her arms up after it. As the water inside this beast solidified, the sheer weight cracked the ice holding it, thudding to the snow with enough might to shake the ground.
Now, be ready this time. She turned toward her first attempt, witnessing eight of these Fire Nation behemoths closing in on her.
This time she froze.
I...I can't do this! Aang leapt over her, landing just in front to bat off a fireball. Its flaming embers spread to the air and licked at its targets with desire, fading into nothingness. Again Aang batted one off as Katara's will began to shake. There's too many!
A heavy thud shook her feet as she just barely stumbled. The large white bison filled her vision, crashing to the ground between her and Aang and the Fire Nation machines. He loosed a vigorous roar and kicked upward, sending two tanks flipping into the air.
"Let's get out of here!" Aang hurriedly shot out. Yes please! She bolted after him as they charged up Appa's tail, leaping over their belongings to land in the saddle.
As Appa leapt into the sky, she turned back to lean over the saddlebags and fix your eyes on the warzone below. Aang crouched beside her, gazing down in awe at the numerous tanks and now a gathered rank of soldiers steadily marching for the temple's walls. We failed...the Fire Nation is here and we can't stop them! What are we going to do?
Her breathing was rapid and slightly shallow, coming down from her adrenaline rush to settle into despair. No words were shared with Aang as Appa closed in for the second tier landing.
She noted something different, there weren't as many gliders resting on the stone as there were when they had began. But I didn't see anyone in the skies, where are the rest of the gliders? Immediately as Appa landed, Aang and Katara charged down his tail, racing to join the crowd of assembled Air Walkers. "What happened?!" She shouted for Teo as they approached. "Is everyone alright?"
He twisted his chair to his side, lifting a pair of terrified brown eyes to her. "They're okay, a few light burns but nothing much. However we lost a few gliders...the pilots were able to land before their gliders burned down."
"Wait, burns? Teo; where are they? I can heal!" She looked around, but nobody appeared injured that she could spot.
"It's nothing, really. But I'll keep that in mind." He shook his head. "Right now we've got bigger problems..."
"You kids stay out of this. Don't get involved!" Lillia's dad shouted as he lifted his arm to the skies. "Alright, we have to hold them off for as long as we can. Let's stand together!" Several adults, including Gonja's workers, seized whatever tool was laying about they could. None seemed too eager for their actions as they ran after him to hold off the oncoming machines.
"We still have gliders." Lillia commented as she approached the small group. "We can still attack the Fire Nation. We can't give up yet!"
"One little problem." Teo leaned forward, staring past Katara and Aang toward his friend Lily. "We're out of bombs!"
No bombs and they're trying to hold off the Fire Nation with pick axes and hammers? Katara's hope plummeted, her nerves quivering in near panic as she turned to face her foes below. You're our only hope... "Come on Sokka; where's that war balloon?" She audibly feared, bracing her hands together.
The presence of something large loomed into her mind. Simply following this feeling, she glanced to her right and spotted an enormous, red, canvas war balloon with the Fire Nation emblem lifting to the skies. "Yes!" She bolted a step forward, turning fully after her brother as he soared beyond the wall with Gonja. "Go Sokka!" She cheered, throwing her hands to the air.
"Alright dad!" Teo shouted after her.
Drifting overtop the Fire Nation army, the war balloon loosed three enormous bags. What is... They burst one by one amidst the crowd below, a sea of slime swallowing the soldiers and shoving them downhill. "Uh...please tell me dad has something else up his sleeve to stop those tanks."
The metal tanks simply rolled on through the slime. That...that was it? Her eyebrows lifted in fear, dropping her hands in defeat to her side. That was all? That was the 'secret weapon'? That was useless!
Metal striking rock caught her attention at her right. Running closer to the edge, she peered just beyond the wall to see Gonja's laborers pounding at the metal spikes supporting the tanks' chains as they climbed the ledge.
Her mouth parted; afraid, deathly afraid. They're coming. What will happen to the people there, the people here, and Aang...? She trembled in fear, taking in this scene painfully. What do I do? Want can I do?! This can't happen! She stood there, petrified, now unable to even think as the tanks drew ever closer to taking away everyone and everything left around her.
"Hey, what are they doing?" Aang pointedly questioned, lifting his finger toward the war balloon. Helpless and out of ideas, she followed his finger to spot a large metal device suddenly drop from the balloon. Huh? She gawked in confusion as it disappeared into a crevice below. But that's when she saw how close the Fire Nation was to the temple. Peering over the edge with Aang at her side, they both gazed at their enemies below, only this one wall keeping them apart.
Silence. Her own breathing filled her ears, begging the spirits for intervention. A loud explosion suddenly arrived on request so violently that she stumbled, throwing herself back onto the tile behind her so as not to fall. Aang's staff clattered to the tile as he ducked beside her.
A moment passed, allowing the quaking earth to settle once more. Thick black smoke and an immense heat filled the air, leaving a pungent odor behind. "What...just happened?" Teo questioned as Katara reopened her eyes, turning back to gaze over the cloudy distance.
"Look!" Aang shouted suddenly. "They're retreating!" I don't believe it... The crowd behind her broke into loud cheers of joy, though she could only stare in silent wonder at the fleeing Fire Nation. We're alive. We made it...I...I...
"We're going down!" Sokka's desperate cry echoed as the balloon plummeted into the clouds below.
"No, Sokka!" She cried out and reached after her brother. Aang snatched his staff up, wasting no time to snap it open into a kite. "Hold on!" Aang charged off into the looming clouds, a yellow-orange flash that was here one moment and gone the next. Hurry Aang, hurry!
"Dad!" Teo rolled next to the edge, stopping as his eyes followed frantically after the airbender. "Can he really carry both of them?"
"Yes, he can. He's done it before with me. Come on Aang!" Sure enough, the next few impatient moments passed to reveal Aang bursting through the clouds, with Sokka hanging from a rope by Aang's legs. She nearly leapt for joy, however as he drew closer the pained expression on Aang's face kept her grounded.
She had hurried to the ruined gardens, where Aang had flown to with her brother and Teo's father. Here, beneath an old, decayed tree, Aang rested on the edge of a stonework centerpiece that had once held this once majestic tree. Beneath its deadened boughs, he kept one leg propped up to squeeze helplessly at his boot.
Katara stepped through the corridor with Teo at her side, smiling to see Gonja and Sokka here as well. You're all safe. This is really, finally, over. She exhaled a sigh of relief.
"Sorry Aang." Sokka spoke, apparently continuing a conversation. "I didn't mean to make your ankles hold both of us. But hey, it worked didn't it?"
"Don't worry, it was worth it." Aang lifted a smile to Sokka as Katara drew closer.
"Let me see that." She exclaimed, setting herself beside him on the stone wall. He obliged, pulling off his boot. Maybe my healing abilities can do more than just burns. She reached for his leg as he slightly extended it, seizing it to pull his ankle to rest on her lap. A sudden clicking noise caught her attention, glancing just behind Aang to the stone behind him.
Aww. Just behind the Air Nomad was a small family of hermit crabs, tucked into their shells with their antenna and eyes sticking out to stare at their guests. She let this go for now, turning back to focus on healing her friend.
Melting away a patch of snow behind her, she brought the cold water to his ankle. He shuddered at the cold bite from the water but restrained from pulling away as she closed her eyes and focused on the liquid caressing his skin. Breathed gently, she sensed the tug of the frigid chill climbing into her wrist as the gleam of glistening blue lit the area. "Whoa." Teo exclaimed, rolling closer to watch.
This healing attempt was different. Behind closed eyes she saw a world of lavender, as well as the same gently oscillating lines of white. However, she couldn't figure out what to do now that she was here. Nothing seemed to be drawing her attention to direct her healing toward. Oh come on, make sense of this. You can heal direct burns, certainly you can sooth this.
She shifted the water further within her reach, slipping between the lines of white as she gently brushed each of them as if she were passing her fingertips across the strings of a pipa. Nothing. Her vision somewhat distorted, unable to make sense of what she was now doing.
She opened her eyes and withdrew her water, turning curious eyes to Aang. Anything? At all? Aang shrugged in response, her eyes having told him her question. "Thanks for trying. Don't worry about it I'll be fine."
"Sorry Aang. Maybe I just need more practice." He brought his foot back, slipping his boot back on as Katara turned her attention to somebody else, somebody that had given her quite a scare a moment earlier. She grabbed this man by the arm and jerked him toward her suddenly.
"Whoa!" Sokka plowed forward as Katara buried her head into his chest. "Uh, uh...um...hi."
"You saved us." She muttered with a smile. "Your crazy ideas actually saved us."
He gently patted her shoulders, apprehensively returning a gentle push. "Yep, we're alive. Now don't kill me!"
Letting go of him, she leaned away and smiled joyously, sliding back over the stone and drawing her legs up to hang over the edge. "That was quite some plan you had; how did you make that big explosion?"
"Uh, I smelled rotten eggs?" He braced one hand off of the back of his head, giving her a shy, confused grin.
You what? She couldn't help but arch an eyebrow. What was your plan? "We're just lucky we didn't blow this entire place sky high!" Gonja answered as he approached with Teo, swinging behind his son's wheelchair. "Igniting all the gas in the cellar was risky but we really had no other choice."
"And that was some awesome bending you pulled off Katara. You made short work of those tanks dad built!" Teo shouted vigorously, leaning from his wheelchair.
Katara tipped her head in quiet flattery, nervously kicking her legs against the stone for a moment. "It was really because you told me they had water in them."
"You know what." Aang slipped off of the stone beside Katara, standing between her and Teo. "I'm really glad you guys live here now. I realized..." He suddenly reached back and claimed one of the hermit crabs, bringing it into his palm to gently rub his fingers on its shell. "It's like the hermit crab. Maybe you weren't born here, but you found this empty shell and made it your home. And now you protect each other." ...and you're settled with them being here. She beamed with joy.
Teo smiled proudly, returning with an air of honor. "That means a lot, coming from you."
"Aang!" Hm? She turned to her brother at her side. "You were right about air power. As long as we've got the skies-" Her eyes followed his finger as he pointed directly to the deep blue overhead. "-we'll have the Fire Nation on the run!"
Suddenly a chorus of cheers and shouts floated into the air, applauding their victory against the Fire Nation this day. Sliding off of the stone, she crossed the few steps to lay her hands on Aang's shoulders. And you led the charge. She squeezed his shoulder proudly as Aang chuckled beneath his breath at the enthusiasm present. "You did well Aang."
"Thanks." He quietly returned as the cheers slowly began to fade. She patted his shoulder, slipping her arms back to her side to step beside him, smiling down to the leader.
Sokka took his turn to approach Aang, stopping just beside him. "Aang, buddy, I owe you one."
He smiled pleasantly, turning to her brother. "It's nothing. You would have done the same."
"No, I mean it. I really owe you. You saved my life back there." Sokka lifted his hand, holding it out for the Air Nomad. Aang waited a moment, allowing his smile to broaden before reaching up to take his hand. However, Sokka reached forward and clasped his grip about Aang's forearm, clearly surprising him as Aang took a moment before returning the gesture, interlocking their arms. "Thank you man. Thank you."
She couldn't help but feel a great pride overcome her. Her gaze passed from one to the other as Sokka released Aang's arm and smiled fondly to his 'brother.' The gesture was one of great respect, typically meant only for Water Tribe comrades.
"They could be back, y'know, Gonja...we've got to plan for that." One of his workers addressed him. Only now she realized that Gonja appeared to be severely downhearted.
The older man gave a nod of his bushy, brown head, closing his eyes with understanding. "We'll have to set traps and devise a defense strategy. I've already got an idea for a new, more powerful bomb, but there is much more to do. I believe the time has come we should reach out to our neighbors." He reopened his eyes, setting them upon Teo before laying his hands on his chair. "We need allies we can trust."
He broke away from Teo's wheelchair, waving on his crew as they made their way back to the Northern Air Temple. "Forgive me, but we must busy ourselves with our future. We won our battle, but now..." Gonja turned back to face Aang, a somber look of pale fear over his face. "We have joined the war." Katara lowered her eyes to Aang's feet, softening her expression as she let this sink in. We have to do the same.
"I completely understand." Aang smiled lightheartedly to the man, turning to face him. "Thank you for everything you have done." Gonja's eyes closed, nodding his farewell as he turned to leave.
"So...what are you guys gonna do now?" Teo posed thoughtfully, rolling forward to stop just in front of the trio. "You could always hang around with us. We should celebrate over dinner."
"Dinner does sound pretty nice..." Sokka lulled out. We're so close... Her eyes darted away from everyone, gazing out over the clouds as her lips curled in thought. Waterbenders are just north of us. If we keep going, we'll be there, then I can...we can learn waterbending.
"Actually we should probably get going." She couldn't help but suggest this. All three present looked to her with a little surprise immediately. "What?" She continued curiously. "Aang still has to learn waterbending. We only stopped here because it was on the way and we heard about the Air Walkers."
"That'd be us." Teo chimed in with a smile. "So you're heading home then?"
Katara shook her head. "No, we're from the Southern Water Tribe. We've been traveling the world to find a teacher at the Northern Tribe."
"Uh...correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't you have just stayed there and trained him?" Teo waved his hands before him curiously.
Her brother shook his head as Katara replied lowly. "No. I'm the last waterbender there. The Fire Nation took all the rest of them."
"Yeah..." Sokka added, stepping beside Katara. "We came here because of the stories; Aang was trying to find some more airbenders. He's the last one of his kind." He added quietly.
Oh don't remind him... She looked to Aang, who held a rather placid expression and simply shifted his eyes away from the trio. "Tell ya what." Teo continued, digging in a pocket before tossing out a small handful of Earth Kingdom copper. "There's a town just north of here. If you leave now you should get there before nightfall. Buy yourself some dinner there."
"Thanks." She gratefully took the money, placing it into her coat pocket. "Take care, Teo. Tell Lily I said goodbye."
The biting chill in the wind tossed her hair braid to and fro behind her, sitting at the saddle's front to smile over the distance ahead of her. I did it Mom. She laid her hands on the saddle's rim. I'm finally going to find a teacher and learn waterbending.
"I think I see the village!" Aang exclaimed to the group, pointing directly ahead.
"Yes! Dinner and a nap! That sounds great right about now." Sokka leapt beside Katara, gazing over the hazy distance. "Aw man, it's still far away." She gave Sokka a sidelong glance. The Northern Water Tribe is even farther. At most, this flight would only take another thirty minutes as they could just barely make out the buildings a few mountains away.
I'm. So. Anxious. She leaned back to rest on her legs, gliding her hands to her lap patiently. This patience was like the wick of a candle, swiftly burning out. "Hey Aang." Sokka posed, a sudden thought rising with his tone. "You uh, that century old map you've got there, you sure it's good on the location of the Northern Water Tribe?"
Oh no. "I can't imagine the entire North Pole would move by itself." Aang returned with a dismissive wave. "Don't worry. Once we set off it'll be smooth sailing all the way there." He replied nonchalantly, somewhat aloof to the situation as he leaned back to lie against Appa's neck.
She hung her head and dropped her eyelids to a dull slant in grim silence. That stupid map better not get us lost up there. What will we do? There's nothing but ocean up there! ...we'd better be sure to buy all the supplies we can.
She rose and crawled to the back of the saddle, digging into their packs to pull out a few odds and ends to set them around her. "Uh...hey, what are you doing?"
She glanced over her shoulder to her brother. "We need all the money we can get for supplies. So, we should see what we have that we can trade for coins. Do you really need this?" She held up a pair of old, brown gloves and dangled them in mid-air. "And do they even fit anymore? I haven't seen you wear them in years."
"Of course they do!" He snatched them roughly from her hands, grumbling irritably as he attempted to put them on. "These are my whittling gloves. Toss out a perfectly good pair of gloves, what's wrong with her. I don't know what her prob- stupid gloves, come on!"
She smirked and crossed her arms, watching her brother struggle to put on the gloves that clearly didn't fit. "Fine, they don't fit." He rescinded, tossing the gloves to the saddle in front of her. "But don't go throwing out all my stuff! I need what's in there."
"If you say so." She chortled, turning back to the saddle to continue snooping.
"Alright, I'm going to see if I can trade these for some more coins. You two see if you can find somewhere we can get supplies for our trip." She lifted a small bag of random items she had collected from the saddle, turning to make her way into the town's alleys.
"I still can't believe you're going to sell my projects...I'm not even finished with those yet!" Sokka protested with an already-present defeat in his tone.
"Relax; I doubt anyone would even buy them. I have no idea what you're trying to carve anyway. But hey, if your projects can earn us a coin, then congratulations! You bought us dinner!" Sokka rolled his eyes and turned away from his sister with a huff. "I'll meet you guys in the marketplace later, I won't be too long. Goodbye!"
"Come on Sokka, let's have a look around!" Aang wandered off toward the marketplace with Sokka dragging his feet in tow.
"Two copper, one for each glove." The aged merchant wheezed out.
She lowered her eyelids sadly. That's it? That's all? At this rate we'll be lucky to have dinner for three days... "Six, they're in good condition and made of quality material found at the Southern Water Tribe."
"Four copper, and that's as far as I'll go." The old man countered, gazing out from beneath his bushy white eyebrows as he laid the copper pieces down.
"Fine." She slid the copper off the table and into her coat's pocket. She'd already made another nine copper off of other items she had scrounged up earlier. "What about the other things?"
"That scrap wood? Forget it." He waves his boney hand toward Sokka's carvings, but paused to stretch his finger toward the crown on the farther end of the table. "An' you're crazy if y'think I can afford that royal crown."
What? It's...oh, I didn't realize... She glanced to it curiously, the crown she had gotten from Momo while she had been sick. It's a royal crown? "You get it from Taku? My great-grandson's down that way."
"Yes, I did get it while traveling by there." Wait a second... She blinked, staring at this man curiously. He didn't seem to appreciate her sudden stare, returning her a skeptical scowl. "Hey! You're the great-grandfather of the storyteller!"
"Un..." He mumbled beneath his breath, twitching his large eyebrows as he leaned back in his wooden seat. "Er, uh, so I be. What's it to you?"
"We met the Air Walkers after we left that night-"
"Dag-nabbit." He cut her off before she had a chance to mention how nice they had been. Wait what? An instant aura of perplexion overcame her. "I knew it was jus' a matter of time 'fore somebody found his stories were hogwash."
"What do you mean?" They really can fly... She didn't voice this though, as he might not tell her if she had.
He sighed and slapped the gloves he had just purchased to the table, rubbing his knotted forehead with the ends of his long, pale fingers. "It's just me and my boy that live here. I told him not to make up that nonsense, but we need the money...and folks don't know no better anyway. They're happy, and we get to eat. Where's the harm in that, eh?"
"Actually I didn't know it was a lie..." She admitted half-heartedly. "I mean it was actually the truth. They can fly just like in his stories."
"'ey? Ah, I see..." He questioned quickly, surprise lingering in his tone. "But they never saved me from nothin'. We just do business with them. He makes a habit of stretchin' the truth to make things more appealin' to those who want to hear it."
Ugh. She cringed. This whole shady operation just reeked of scam. I know, I know. They're happy to hear the story and he's happy to get the money but ugh! That's just wrong. "So you're making money twice? First you take money from the people listening, then again when trading with the Air Walkers?"
His hands fell to the table, settling on the brown crafting gloves. "The Earth Kingdom's dropped us off the wagon and could care less if we died in these cold mountains! So they can skip up a rockslide for all I care! People want to be entertained, no matter if they're Fire Nation. It ain't like the Earth Kingdom's helpin' us any...those high-falutin' pompous know-it-all criminals!" He rambled on, his beady green eyes angrily darting from one side of the tent to the other.
Wow...just a little angry. She dropped her eyes to Sokka's carvings and leftover crown, sliding them back into her small bag very slowly. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry. I was just curious." Picking up the small sack, she rose from her chair quickly. "Thank you for trading with me. We really needed the money."
"As do we all, little Miss." He waved his palm toward the door, extending his finger away from her. "Watch yourself out there, and don't sell out my great-grandson!" I won't... She peered over her shoulder to the man with her soft blue eyes. We have other priorities anyway.
Wandering the various stalls of the marketplace, a particular large blue fruit caught her eye. Hm...I bet Sokka didn't bother looking at fruit at all. Probably just snacks and meat. I think I'll just... She wandered over to the stall and dug out thirteen copper pieces, tapping each of the coins to count them individually.
"Katara!" She jerked her head up in surprise as Sokka closed in on her, carrying two green hats. What on Earth? "Which one do you think I should get? This one with the side thingies or this other one that has uh... ear holders?"
"Sokka. Those are very poor descriptions." She tapped at the blue melon and turned to the merchant, ignoring him. "How much for this melon ma'am?"
"Three copper pieces. It's fresh from the Glacial Gorge! Frostmelons are the best this time of year." The older lady picked up the blue melon and pushed it forward, setting it on the counter before her customer.
"That thing looks like a Water Spirit egg, if they laid any." Sokka whispered shrewdly.
She laid three copper pieces down for the melon, sliding it into her thick bag before turning a glum look to her brother. "I thought you had issues with spirits and Avatars and things."
"Hey, you can't just carry those off!" Sokka spun around to an angry merchant and provided a goofy grin. Oh great. He just walked off with his merchandise.
"Coming, coming!" He followed after the man, waving each green hat back to his sister. "So, which one? I think they both look great on me, but I just can't decide."
"Sokka, we have limited money and you want to spend it on a hat?" She lowered her eyebrows subtly to him.
"Well, you sold off my gloves..." That didn't fit. She rolled her eyes. "And we're heading to cold territory. It might come in handy." He plopped one on his head and flicked his fingers at the large green flaps protruding off of its edges above his ear. "I don't know...hm..."
You have got to be kidding me. I swear he's more of a girl than I am. "Come on, Sokka!" She roughly answered, not caring to pick either for him. He'd probably not care what I chose anyway. "Make up your mind. We've wasted enough time here; we have to be on our way to the Northern Water Tribe!"
"I could use one of these." Her eyebrows stiffened as Sokka picked up some simple green fabric she couldn't make sense of. Then she figured out what it was for. Is that a scarf? Seriously?! We have fur coats! "Necessary supplies, Sokka!"
"This is more useful than the stuff Aang is looking at." Sokka quipped, setting a hat back to the counter.
Huh? Oh great, both of them now? What's Aang doing? She spun back to follow Sokka's gaze. Aang was standing just ahead of a simple merchant who sat on the dusty ground, a blue mat with various wooden wares laid out in front of him.
Well, whatever it was, he looks like he's finished...maybe? "Aang, are you done?" She questioned aloud to his back as he faced the distant mountains. "We need to go!"
"Huh?" He spun around, locking eyes with her. A moment passed before he gave a simple nod. "Yeah, I'm good. See you back at Appa!" So much for helping carry things. She lifted a brow as he airbent himself above the nearby merchant tents, speeding off toward his bison.
"Thank you for your business." Ugh, well he finally decided. She turned back to eye her brother as he dropped four copper to the table, taking away the scarf and hat. She scowled in disgust.
"Y'know, that could have been a whole meal right there. And what do we have instead?" She rotated away from him, carrying off her bag with it, providing a sideways lean to shove her face toward him as she snapped. "Useless stuff! I should never have left the money Teo gave us with you."
"Relax, Katara! This will come in handy I'm sure." He stuck the cloth in the hat and swung it behind his back, heading to a nearby tent. "Besides, there's still money left. Dinner time!" She sighed in an attempt to release a building anxiety within her. I had better oversee him, or Aang's going to be eating dirt.
Sokka loudly made his pleasure in dinner known, devouring each portion of meat in his bowl and leaving the fruit until last. She had given the healthiest portion of meat to him, while giving a complete portion of fruit to Aang. She took the remainder of the two, which was still a fair meal.
Finishing the meat first, she moved on to the most enticing course of the meal. She seized a wedge of the pure blue fruit between two wooden sticks and lifted to stare at it curiously. Frostmelon huh? Never heard of them before.
Biting the wedge, a sweet, tangy juice burst from the fruit. Oooh...that's good. The juice lived up to its name, carrying a chill of its own with its presence that caused her mouth to lightly tingle. "Aang! Do you like the frostmelon? It's wonderful!"
"Yeah, it's good." He mused aloud, tossing another piece into his mouth. "The monks here even grew some in our gardens. We even got some to grow at the Southern Air Temple. The people from the Water Tribe loved them..." He paused, leaving her to her thoughts a moment.
"The Water Tribe? My people?" She lowered her bowl and stared in aghast wonder. "Back when benders were at the Southern Water Tribe, you knew them then?"
He nodded. "Yeah, we shared stories and dinners with each other regularly. They're the ones that introduced me to penguin sledding." He smiled fondly, glancing up to her momentarily.
Hm... She dipped her eyes for her bowl, a warm grin creeping upon her while the campfire danced within a soft breeze. "Naturally the first thing you think of is when benders were there." Sokka stated between chews, swallowing his next bite.
"Well it's true." She turned to stare at him cruelly. Is there a problem?
He shook his head with a giddy grin, holding up another piece of meat. "You sure are in a hurry to find other waterbenders. Relax; we're almost at the North Pole."
"It's not for me!" She quipped coarsely, turning a smug expression upon her brother. "Aang needs a teacher and we have weeks of traveling left." Her voice calmed as she returned her attention to her dinner. "The sooner we get there, the safer we'll be." Besides, there's nothing wrong with me getting in a little training while we're at it... She mused to herself, ensuring she wouldn't dare mention this.
"You really are getting worked up over this." Sokka uttered with a full mouth, staring at her oddly. "Weeks of travel? Try more like a couple of days. You're blowing this way out of proportion."
"Fine, but we still have to focus on getting there as quickly as possible. We've delayed this long enough. Right Aang?" Surely he'll agree with me. She afforded a glance to the Air Nomad, but he didn't seem very responsive, keeping his head hunched over to stare into his bowl. "Aang?"
His gray eyes lifted to hers, flashing a quick smile. "Yeah. Gotta learn my waterbending."
She returned her attention to Sokka and nodded with finality. "Well that's settled."
He arched a brow curiously, tilting his head as he set his bowl down. "Katara, I wasn't saying...oh never mind."
Following dinner, she passed Appa and knelt into his saddle on the ground, tying back their belongings into the saddlebags as Sokka and Aang brought their remaining packed bundles. Sokka stretched wide, spreading his mouth in an immense yawn. "Well...time for that nap."
Here you go big boy. She smiled up to him and lifted his sleeping bag. Gripping just one end, he turned and dragged the other behind him as he approached Appa. It's getting very cold out now. We're close... She unfolded her sleeping bag and stepped out of the saddle, glancing about the rocky plateau they had made camp on. Where'd Aang go?
Meandering around Appa, her eyes darted to and fro for any sign of the yellow and orange Air Nomad. A small bundle caught her attention, snuggled into Appa's leg at his other side. She couldn't help but beam a broad smile as she noticed this small bundle was Aang. "Do you need a blanket?" She gently posed.
"No, I'm okay." He softly responded without even budging to her words.
"Well...good night!" She turned away from him, glancing back curiously to the Air Nomad. But really, how do you stand the cold?
"Y'know, I gotta say. I am not looking forward to this." Sokka added as he finished rolling up his blanket to pass to her the following morning.
"It won't be so bad." She responded, shoving her sleeping bag into their packs to prepare for their journey. "Think about it. We've been doing a lot of traveling lately and have had a lot of dangerous run-ins with the Fire Nation. From here on it's smooth sailing. We'll be at the North Pole before you know it!"
She turned to her brother to take his pack, but caught him flapping his mouth and hand. Caught in the act, he snapped his hand to his sleeping bag and tossed it to her quickly. "Excuse me?" She caught the bag mid-air and slapped it to the saddle. "What was that?"
"Nothing. Let's just get this journey started."
Like I believe that. She crawled over the saddle, standing to make her way around Appa to wake Aang. I don't talk too much...he just runs his mouth too much! She fumed, rounding the bison's head. Casting her eyes to Aang's resting place, all she saw was Appa's fur bedded down where he had laid during the night.
Aang...? She blinked, absorbing this for a moment. Her eyes searched the area as she quickly spun full circle, revealing to her nothing but rock and snow. Oh no, not again. Not now. Where are you?! She spun back and charged around Appa's head, startling the poor bison awake with a jolt. "Sokka!" His blue eyes settled on her distressed expression in bewilderment. "Aang's gone!" She exclaimed before leaping away and climbing the nearest jagged slope, hoping for a chance to see him if she were higher in the air.
Nothing. Fear began to settle in as she scoured the barren landscape for sign of life. What are you doing Aang? You wouldn't just leave us... She leapt over the edge of the crag, sliding with one hand braced off the rock wall for balance before stopping just a short fall below. Could the Fire Nation from the Northern Air Temple have found us?
"Katara!?" She heard her brother cry out behind her. Rather than reply, she ran up the next ridge as her brother slid down just behind her in pursuit. No. He wouldn't have been captured that easily. He's got to be near.
"Careful Katara!" Her brother shouted as he clambered up behind her. "If Aang has disappeared, that could mean we're surrounded by Fire Nation forces!" Is that... She stood upright, finishing her climb and heading toward something foreign to rock. "Well-hidden Fire Nation soldiers, waiting to ambush us when our backs are turned and..."
"There he is!" She shouted loudly, sighing in relief before closing in on the missing airbender.
"See?" Sokka retorted plainly. "He's okay. You worry too much."
She ignored him entirely, approaching Aang with a kindly smile. "What are you doing out here? We were looking for you." Aang didn't respond. He stood quietly with his back to her, gazing over the edge of the mountain to the great precipitous distance beyond. "Wait, I think I know."Reaching his side, he still didn't turn to her, gazing somberly directly ahead. She reached around his back and laid her cold fingers on his farther shoulder, taking his shoulder closer to her in her other hand. "This place reminds you of home, right? All these mountains...airbenders would have loved to stay here. They would have been attracted to the place."
"Yeah." She bit back her suspicion, replacing it with sudden surprise. A glum, knowing sorrow lined his tone as he hung his head away from her. "A few of them probably were."
"Aang. What are you talking about?" She stepped closer, standing upright as she leaned ahead of him to try to look at his fleeting face.
"Nothing." He turned away, stepping out of her embrace to make his way back for his bison. "We need to get going. The sooner we reach the North Pole, the safer we'll be." Echoing her earlier sentiments, each word was low and solemn, refusing to turn back to her as he made his way down the rocky slope.
She lingered a moment, dropping her arms to her side to stare sorrowfully after him. What was that about...? "Good job Katara." Her brother replied with a subtle frown. "You see what your waterbending drive has done? You've gone and upset Aang."
"I did not!" She quipped back, beginning a quick pace to chase after him. Did I? But...how?
"Oh come on. It's not that hard to see." Sokka retorted as he stuffed his boomerang into his coat. "We just left the Northern Air Temple; his people are fresh on his mind." He waved his hands magic-like ahead of him, swinging his club haughtily. "And here you go talking about waterbenders and let's go! And no kidding, this place reminds him of airbenders? Who'd have thought that?"
Oh gosh. Keeping her back to her brother as she walked on, her expression died a little, a solid emptiness filling her. I...I didn't mean to be inconsiderate. I didn't even realize...but, I thought I was being supportive. Is he really mad at me? "But Sokka..." She added softly, shifting her blue eyes to glance over her shoulder. "He seemed sad..."
"Wouldn't you be too?" He posed pensively, leaping past her to scale the rock wall. She froze, gazing up after her brother, mortified. How did this happen... how did I hurt him like this? Ugh...stupid...stupid...
In silence, she had rejoined her brother and Aang as they began what would be a long, tiresome journey to the North Pole. She lingered at the front of the saddle, occasionally peering down to Aang upon Appa's head.
Oh what did I say... She mulled over her words, leaning away to brace her back against the saddle's edge. I was just keeping everyone on track. If I didn't, we wouldn't even have food to eat. She frowned, her thoughts didn't comfort her. But...maybe I was too harsh.
She lifted her eyes to her brother. He was busy in the back of the saddle, running his knife against one of his various wooden projects again. Somewhere in their saddlebags now rested his useless purchase. Why did I even let him buy that?
Katara! She snapped her eyes shut, heaving a breath at the thought that had a life of its own. Maybe I am being too pushy. No, wait. No...I'm not. Aang still has to master waterbending as the Avatar and we're running out of time! "I don't know, I just don't know!" She exclaimed with a hush in rising frustration, grabbing at her face to bury her head in her gloves.
Thump. Something struck her stomach. She parted her gloves to stare at her lap curiously. A poorly misshapen, somewhat circular piece of wood lay in her lap, small notches and a single bump on its surface facing her. She quirked a brow and lifted her eyes to her brother, questioning his smirk with her confusion. "It's a smiling face...cheer up."
That's what it is? He won. She couldn't help but smile, though it was a bit of a jeering one. It's the thought that counts...and...really? "That's what you've been doing this last hour?" For me?
He shrugged, sheathing his knife before crossing his arms. "If that's how long you've been pouting. I don't know."
She grasped the smiling face between her gloved fingers, lifting it to stare at its odd features. What an odd little thing. But this time, flipping it back to his side of the saddle like a copper piece, her smile was genuine. "Thanks, Sokka."
Her eyes drooped to Appa's neck in contemplation. Okay. I can't take this. If this is my fault I'll apologize. She exhaled wearily, rising to slip over the lip of the saddle.
Minutes passed. Despite Sokka's attempt, she still tormented herself. The sheer sorrow in Aang's words, and the empty silence between them ever since, filled her mind. She twisted around to lie against the edge of the saddle, taking in the sight of his bald, tattooed self. As he had been throughout this trip, he faced the distance, alone and in silence.
Safely inching down Appa's neck, she rested on her knees and leaned forward, bracing herself off of her knuckles beside him. "Aang." She approached softly. His head turned toward her, gray eyes drifting her direction. "Are you mad at me?"
"What?" Aang questioned with confusion, though he uttered this weakly. "No, I'm not."
Her heart pounded, unable to shake feeling guilty regardless. "I know I've been pushing you. And I'm sorry. But I just-" She snapped her eyes shut momentarily. No, don't do this. Don't explain a wrong. "I'm sorry."
Reopening her blue eyes, she met a pair of gray eyes, wide-eyed with wonder. "Katara..." A solid somberness returned to him. "Don't apologize. You haven't done anything wrong." His head rotated away, gazing over the blank blue of the rolling waves before them. "There's just some stuff going on right now."
She crawled forward to join Aang at his side, leaning back to rest on her legs. "What's wrong? Talk to me..."
His eyes drifted to Appa's brown arrow, staring placidly toward it in deep thought. "I uh, kind of had trouble with getting back to sleep last night. That's all." He bit at his lip as he finished this.
Her brow knotted curiously. "Are you having those nightmares again?" His eyelids fell, though he remained unmoving from his position. Well, maybe he just needs some rest and then he can think more clearly. She reached out, laying her arm across his back to offer him a tender smile. "Go back to the saddle and get some rest. I'll take over for now."
He nodded, turning back to climb up Appa's neck and leave her at the reigns without as much as a word. She took Appa's reigns in one hand, glancing back to watch sadly as Aang slipped over the saddle's edge. I wish I knew what was hurting you. Is it nightmares still? I used to have them all the time...
She sat back, seeking Appa's neck to recline against and patiently watch the seas ahead of her. You'll cheer up. She mused, a soundless joy echoing in her mind. You're going to love the North Pole. We'll be able to waterbend together too. You'll see; it's going to be fun.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg