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|Pride and Prejudice|
30-Pride and Prejudice
You know what's funny, when you think about it? Not once throughout the battle did Pakku ever get hit. Sorry, Katara, nice try...but you got totally rolled.
Mention Only: Buffalo-yak
Objects... (of interest?)
Time Candle (mention only)
Water Tribe coat (old & new)
Three fur blankets
Katara held her palm forward in an earnest plea for understanding. "I understand we shouldn't have done that last night. We went against the customs of your tribe. But if you punish Aang for this, you're only punishing yourselves and the whole world!" Katara ceased for a moment, quirking an eyebrow as she stared forward blankly. "No, that's stupid."
She shook her head and turned hesitantly to her side, pacing in front of their hut's doorway anxiously. "I mean it's true but there's no way that would work." And it doesn't help me be able to waterbend. She made the mental note subconsciously. This wasn't her goal, but she had to start somewhere. What should she say?
She groaned and gripped the sides of her head, closing her eyes and bearing her teeth together roughly. "How can I get them to understand how important this is!?"
She dropped her gloved hands by her side, before again lifting one palm to explain herself to thin air. "You don't understand; Aang was just showing off what he learned from Pakku to me. We didn't know it was wrong since it just so happens I'm a girl, so we won't do it again." She again stared blank-eyed toward nothingness. Did I really just say that? She rolled her eyes in disgust and carried on. As hard as she tried, it felt like each time her attempts worsened.
Hours later, she had receded to the nearby fountain, sitting on its edge to glumly stare into the water at her own reflection. Nothing I can say is good enough. I have to make this work for Aang. Kyma, please, help me. She closed her eyes, proceeding to sit quietly and contemplate what to do.
The shuffling of feet slightly startled her, opening her eyes to notice her brother only a few feet away. "You don't know what to say, do you?" He stated bluntly, turning to seat himself beside her. "You've been out here all morning."
His words stung. Instinctively her head snapped away from him, casting a sullen gaze over the icy landscape. Still, though she refused to admit it even to herself, she felt comfort that he had noticed. But it didn't help her dilemma.
After a moment he cleared his throat, breaking the sudden silence that had formed. The next words he spoke had a rather focused, deep tone. "So, young lady, what is it you wanted to see me for?" She couldn't help but turn and lay a dubious, unimpressed stare upon him. "Don't look at me like that." He retorted, straightening to sit upright. "Come on, just play along."
She breathed a quiet sigh, slightly hanging her head. "Sokka I've been doing this all morning. It's only half an hour now."
"Fine. Just thought I'd help." He propped one leg on the fountain's ledge between them, loosely draping one arm over his upright knee.
The wind raced over the steppe, carrying the ocean's salty, frigid air with it. "Pakku told them about what happened last night before I even got there. They already know."
"Oh." He stated in a manner that indicated trouble. "Have you practiced apologizing?"
"For what?" She retorted, turning to stare him down. "Breaking their stupid tradition? If anybody should apologize, it's Pakku. He's nothing but a rude and arrogant old man!"
Her brother swayed his gloved hands by his sides, shrugging dismissively. "Just saying. Sneaking around like that made them pretty angry with you."
She hesitated. "...I know." Her head fell atop her crossed arms propped atop her knees, drawing her legs against her chest. The ripple of the water behind her back did little to comfort her, but it at least partially distracted her. "I have thought about it." She ruefully admitted.
The trio climbed the last flight of steps, finishing their dreadful advance on the towering ice citadel looming above them. She breathed softly, yet deeply, mustering all her courage for whatever questions she had to answer. And answer them, she would. She rapped the knocker on the tall doors and then waited patiently.
The door opened almost instantly.
"Welcome Katara." Shila's gentle voice met them, which normally would be very soothing and inviting. Given the circumstances however, Katara felt no such greeting. Upon meeting Shila's eyes, the woman displayed brief surprise before apologizing swiftly. "Oh, I was not aware you would all be coming. Aang, Sokka, you are both welcome to join. Right this way. Remember; only address Chief Arnook, unless told otherwise."
"Thank you. I will." She had found her courage. Whether it was Shila's attempt to calm the mood that aided in her final preparation, she had no idea, but now she was ready for whatever would come. She would leave here with a measure of success, one way or another. They had not traveled all the way to the Northern Water Tribe only to leave it empty-handed.
But she had not expected what she saw.
Entering through the citadel's masterful doors, a wide hallway stood before the trio with an expansive Water Tribe carpet in its middle. To Katara, the tribal symbol embossed upon the carpet chilled the very air, its sole purpose to instill fear to those who crossed it to face the authority beyond. Beyond - where they waited.
"Oh man." Sokka groaned aloud. Katara stilled her nerves best she could, which was nearly impossible now. She had known the council would be here, but she hadn't expected to see Pakku himself sitting among them. Just my luck. This wasn't going to be easy.
Shila ever so gently cleared her throat, which sounded more like a soft lyrical hum as she turned her back to the door. "Good luck." Her barely audible words caught Katara by surprise. Did she support Katara's stance against this sexism? Yet upon glancing to the lady, she couldn't tell. Shila appeared expressionless, simply ushering her forward.
She pursed her lip; settling her attention on the frightful, silent figures before her. The council made no move as the trio crossed the vast carpet. With their grim countenance, she could scarcely keep from comparing them to water spirits. Katara decided Shila had simply been wishing her luck for this...execution.
She heard her brother inhale sharply; he had probably noticed Yue sitting among the council members. Ugh. Sorry Sokka... Guilt overwhelmed her once more, realizing she may have just damaged his chances with her.
Silence reigned high until the trio lined up in front of the raised ice shelves the council waited upon. "Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, step forward." Chief Arnook's stern tone commanded. Surprisingly, the waterfall just behind the council did not overpower his words, furthering her suspicion spirits were at play. She silently obeyed, taking a single step to stand just ahead of her companions.
"It has come to my attention that you came to us with intent contrary to our customs. After you had been warned, you disregarded Master Pakku's orders and proceeded to abuse his private teachings with your friend." Heightened nerves forced Katara's muscles to contract, her forehead a knot of frustration. "You did so in secret, as you knew full well that this was disapproved of by our culture. What do you have to say for yourself?"
A brief pause left her the opportunity to see multiple sets of eyes trained upon her. Katara felt the temperature rise, rendering her heavy fur coat suddenly excessive. "I didn't come here to try and change your customs for me." She began softly, no challenge in her tone, more a request for sympathy. "I came here to ask for you to let my friend continue training with Pakku. Nothing like this will happen again."
Yes, Aang's training came first. However there would come a day when she would be a late second. It just might be after they leave.
The chief's cool blue eyes assessed her carefully. He seemed to be judging her for truth, as if he doubted she would keep it. He wasn't entirely wrong. She hoped it didn't show. "Pakku," Arnook began, turning his head to the aged master. "Would you take this young boy back as your student?"
"No." He responded curtly, refusing to shift his gaze from the distant wall.
"You can't do this!" Katara shot back with her first thought, yet quickly checked herself when Arnook snapped his attention back upon her. Taking her tone down a step, she attempted to reason with them. "Aang is the world's last hope to end this war. As the Avatar, he has to learn waterbending. Pakku must be his teacher!"
"Master Pakku; please," the chief idly replied, keeping from removing his eyes off her. "An explanation may be in order given the circumstances."
Pakku's expression darkened. Katara couldn't help but feel a subtle satisfaction in seeing this. You're not used to have your 'no' challenged, are you? "I have seen enough of this girl's tenacity to know she will not respect our customs." He nonchalantly unfolded his arms, holding one palm up in idle reasoning. "As soon as she feels she's out of our eyesight, this situation will repeat itself." He returned his hand to cross his arms before him once again.
You dirty old creep! Her eyebrows crossed downward furiously. It didn't matter that he was right, his obstinance still infuriated her. "We appear to be at an impasse," The chief stated plainly, keeping his arms still atop his lap. "I am sorry, but your request will not be granted."
"This isn't about me. This is about everyone, and Aang as the Avatar. You don't care about the fate of the world?" Katara asked softly, raising her eyebrows. How could it be that so many individuals did not respect Aang as the Avatar?
Arnook locked eyes with her, taking her words as a cruel challenge. "Even if this boy were taught by Pakku, there is little chance he would leave here with enough knowledge to be better than an average waterbender. The Northern Water Tribe has held the Fire Nation at bay for one hundred years. How could one boy stand against an entire nation?"
Because he's the Avatar. Her heart sank. Arnook had a point, and the reality of that was terrifying. "The Avatar has not been seen for over a hundred years, but I have traveled with Aang and we have been hunted by the Fire Nation the entire way. I have seen for myself that Aang, as the Avatar, has incredible power. He just..." She paused, lifting her eyebrows imploringly to appear as helpless as she felt. "He needs help mastering it."
Arnook retorted with an edge of exasperation, apparently having his patience tried. "What do you want me to do, force Master Pakku to take Aang back as his student?"
"Yes!" Katara dropped her arms to her side, adopting the best pleading expression she could muster as she returned her attention to him. "Please..."
"I suspect he might change his mind." Arnook began, though his tone suddenly became crass. His own daughter, who sat beside him, seemed to have noted this as she turned to face him. "If you swallow your pride and apologize to him."
waterbending for me. -Katara
Ugh... she dropped her head in anger. This isn't fair! A silent tug at her heart brought her mind reeling backwards. Her expression softened and, feeling Aang's eyes upon her, she turned to face her friend. A quiet, earnest look of understanding lingered in his deep gray pools. His eyes relayed to her his thoughts; patience. He wasn't making her decide, the choice was hers to make. He seemed to be more distressed for the position she was in. This touched her. You would have even gave up your waterbending for me.
Her heart convinced her mind. Turning halfway back, she closed her eyes in momentary submission. "Fine." She spat out, the word awakening the fire in her that existed just a moment prior.
Pakku smirked. The old creep finally showed the first expression he had the entire meeting, an arrogant, pleased smirk. Spirits; he's enjoying this! She found herself suddenly furious. "I'm waiting, little girl." He carefully chimed, idly glancing away in pleasant humor.
That was the last straw. This wasn't an apology, this was mockery.
Her fists balled at her sides, shaking in sudden frustration at how helpless a position she had been placed in. She hated feeling helpless, especially in the face of such cruel prejudice. "No!" She lost it. Her body moved involuntarily as she began shouting. "No way am I apologizing to a sour old man like you!"
She found her finger mid-air, jabbing straight toward the old man. She was only half-aware of the sound of ice crackling around her, but it didn't deter her for a moment. "Uh...Katara?" Aang meekly questioned, but she tuned him out.
Pakku needed to learn a lesson, a lesson that not all women are pathetic, helpless ragdolls to be tucked on shelves and kept pretty. "I'll be outside if you're man enough to fight me." She lividly challenged, warranting a horrified gasp from the council she now so willingly ignored.
Pakku's pleasant smirk fell straight off his face, a sour frown replacing it. Good. Keep it that way. She spun on her heel and trudged for the door.
Approaching the exit, Shila – wide-eyed – swung the doors open and stood aside to allow the angry waterbender to pass. Katara didn't even glance to her, simply paced right out the door and into the sunlight.
Pacing the frozen patio, she only then realized her body was quivering with adrenaline. She controlled her breathing, feeling her heart rate skyrocketing. He's going to wipe the floor with me. Her subconscious forewarned her, which only made her tighten her lip in further anger. Fine! Whatever! So what. I'll at least show him I can fight!
She continued pacing. Again noting just how hot she felt, but for the moment ignored this discomfort.
After what felt like an eternity, which was really just under a minute, the doors opened once again and her brother and friend joined her. She spared one glance to them and then whipped around for the stairway of ice leading to the outer steppe, Pakku's waterbending court.
Shuffling of feet sounded behind her, racing to catch up. "Are you crazy Katara?!" Her brother worriedly questioned. "You're not gonna win this fight!"
"I know!" Katara angrily spat back, feeling a slight sweat break out. In one swift motion, she hauled her fur coat over her head and flung it and her gloves one-handed straight into Sokka's chest. "I don't care."
"You don't have to do this for me. I can find another teacher." Aang implored. You think this is about you?
"I'm not doing it for you!" She plainly replied, still blindly taking each step to the bottom without as much as a glance at either one of them. "Someone needs to slap some sense into that guy."
"And then what?" Sokka posed as they halted at the base of the stairway. "Then neither one of you can learn waterbending here."
"Then I'll think of something!" She snapped back crassly, willing her brother to shut up. "Now stop trying to talk me out of this, both of you!"
"Okay, okay!" Sokka hastily surrendered, clutching her fur coat into his arms in patience. "Just, be careful."
Oh don't you worry about that. Careful was the last thing on her mind at the moment. No, she was ready to go full-tilt against Pakku. She had no chance at victory, so she was prepared to throw everything she could at Pakku and hold absolutely nothing back. After all, he was a master. He could likely handle anything she threw at him. So she was going to throw it all.
Impatiently glancing toward the citadel, she spotted the old man making his descent down the last flight of steps. Her heart skipped a beat as adrenaline climbed into her muscles, balling her fists to hold in and relish the drive it carried. "So, you decided to show up?"
She remained absolutely still, watching silently as Pakku continued his descent. A scowl etched his brow, but as he neared the bottom he had yet to as much as glance to her. Reaching the bottom of the steps; it became clear to her he was entirely ignoring her presence. "Aren't you going to fight?!"
Without skipping a beat, nor turning his head, he dismissively addressed her. "Go back to the healing huts with the other women where you belong."
Her teeth involuntarily ground together. She was as well as dismissed, absolutely tossed to the side just like a useless ragdoll. No. You will not ignore me this time! She unclenched her fist, stretching her fingertips for the snow by her feet.
It gave way to a puddle; awakening to Katara's will and rising to her fingertips. No, he wasn't going to get away with telling her water would not bend to a woman's will. The cold water gently clasped into Katara's hands as she seized it, hauling it length-wise from the ground in a long whip before swiftly hauling forward, cracking it down upon Pakku's unsuspecting head with a resounding snap.
He lurched his head down from the sharp impact and then stopped dead in his tracks. That got your attention. A wry grin momentarily flashed upon her lips before immediately fading, fully prepared for the coming struggle. "Fine." Pakku snapped, suddenly turning back to peer at his newfound competitor. "You want to learn to fight so bad, study closely!"
Pakku swept his arms into a wide arc; two basins filled with water gave up their contents to the old master. Spirits, here goes nothing. The water rapidly encircled the man, taking her view of him away. She didn't allow herself to become scared, not now. She already knew she would fail; she just had to make the most of it.
Wasting not a moment, she bent into a full-on sprint, charging him while she hoped he wouldn't notice behind his swirling water. Just as she approached however, the trailing water arced into the air behind its master, revealing his eyes locked readily upon her.
Agh, no! Her momentum carried her flat into a head-on blast of water. "Ah!" The water struck her like a charging buffalo-yak, sending her airborne. Just as quickly as it struck her, it raced back to its master. She threw one arm down as she fell, landing on the snow in a crouch to absorb her fall.
Glancing at her adversary, he swung his arms full-round, swinging the water into an immense, circling wall to surround the two of them. Hey! What do you think you're doing? Springing to her feet, she edged away from the water wall nearly twice her height, eyeing it fearfully. It was constricting, closing in to push her closer to Pakku. "Don't worry I'm not going to hurt you." He teased simply.
Again she felt anger boil within her. He was enjoying this, too! She was nothing to him! She felt her heart thumping wildly in her chest and found herself shaking, giving ground and walking toward Pakku helplessly. Get a grip! He can't win now! No, not now! With one quick glance to Pakku, she steeled her nerves to control her body, allowing the ebb and flow of the water wall to caress her nerves.
This is not just your element, old man! Following the water's rapid current, she twisted her body and swung her arm full-round with it, causing a violent force to fight against its masters' control and sling the water well enough out of the way.
He stared at her, arms extended to bend the water he'd just lost, dumbfounded. Her body reeled with adrenaline, confidence washing over her. Bolting for the man, she hauled a whip of water to seize into her right hand. Plans? Forget plans, she was just going to give him any kind of a beating she could.
Until the snow beneath her suddenly converged to ice.
Charging in full sprint, she lost her footing and slid over the sudden ramp, but kicked off as she neared the top to flip mid-air. Slamming to her feet upon the rail of the icy stairway, she fell into a kneel to keep her balance.
She twisted back just in time to witness the ramp of ice melt to a force of cascading water, the old master bending down with a sweep of his arms as the tsunami barreled toward her. In just a moment, she would find herself thrown clear of the walkway to fall a considerable distance into the canal below.
Her heart pounding, she refused to cave to fear or pressure so easily. She twisted straight for the oncoming wave, calling up a sheet of ice to freeze her legs in place with the snowy rail she stood on. Bending her knees forward, she extended her arms for the water, reaching into its raging approach to feel its coursing, gathered might.
The water roared madly all around her as she turned with it, parting it in a whipping circle to crash into the stairway behind her. The roar of water that had deafened her ears gave way to silence, reality set back in. Pakku stood still a short pace from the base of the stairs, staring at the young waterbender.
Pride filled her quickly, hoping she now had gotten her point across to the old master. Women weren't just petty pretty things to be called upon only to fix a little scrape. "You can't knock me down!" Her exclamation was met with sudden wild cheers from the top of the stairs behind her.
"Go Katara!" Aang's voice resounded over the whoops and praise. And go, she did. She threw herself from the rail, landing square at the bottom of the steps in a speedy charge to close the gap between her and her opponent.
She could see the cold blue of his eyes as he swept his arm before him, calling up a sudden wall of ice between the two. No you don't! Thrusting her leg forward, she slung her arm horizontally before her, feeling the chill of the ice ripple from her shoulder down to her fingertips. The jagged wall erupted into a blast of water, flung casually some distance to the ground below.
Face to face, she hauled forward with all her might and thrust her fist flat into his outstretched hand, quickly following with another punch from her left hand for his gut. Pakku slapped off her punch, stepping aside just in time to miss a right hook for his jaw. Carried by adrenaline and rage, she held position and swung her right leg high for a solid kick to the back of his head.
But in the next moment, the wind was knocked clean out from her by a torrent of water heaving her off her feet, submerged in water and panicking for lack of air. Her world spun as her back thumped against ground, staring up through the water's surface to a discolored bright sky, terribly confused as to what just happened.
Rolling forward, Katara climbed to her feet and stood from the water basin, shaking her head free of confusion and regaining her senses. Quiet, distant cheering still echoed over the open icy floor, while Pakku stood resolutely in the middle of the path beyond, simply watching her.
You expect me to cave already? She breathed heavily. If her nerves were tense before, now they were a taut cord ready to snap from the tension holding her together. She heaved her arms from the icy grasp of the basin's water, her bending lifting a column of ice from its depths, level with her chest.
Swiping her palm across the sheet of ice, she willed the motion to shave off the top of the column, flinging a razor-sharp disc of smooth ice swiftly. Crack! The ice disc shattered at Pakku's hands. Shing! She launched another at him, followed by another and again another.
A sharp crack of ice sounded just to her left as a sudden torrent of water pulled her straight out of the water basin. The basin spilled its contents over the snow, a fresh gaping hole in its side. Katara fell to her back and slid with the current toward the steps, coming to a stop just as she kicked upwards to her side, swinging her arms wide to haul up the spilled water.
She allowed her body to move with the water, rotating in a twist that sped up as she thrust toward Pakku. The encircling wave of water dashed toward him seemingly of its own accord, readying to overtake and wash him away.
Immediately after this she charged forward to close the distance once again. However, the water she had thrown at him suddenly spun around him; he had captured it with his own bending.
She gasped, breaking her sprint upon seeing rushing water overtaking her, but she halted her advance too late. The sheer impact from the wave blasted her off her feet yet again. For a moment she was so disoriented she lost track of which way was up, doing all she could to get a gasp of fresh air and not a mouthful of frigid water.
When her world settled, she found herself lying flat on her stomach. Stupid, stupid. I should have seen that coming. Heaving her upper body up beneath her arms, she realized they were shaking. A stinging pain bit into her muscles terribly. Her bare palms and face felt as if they were on fire, and the ends of her fingers had gone numb.
Focus. Focus... She willed the pain to leave, inhaling sharply before releasing her chilled breath.
In one swift leap she was back on her feet, lifting her arms high to feel the grip of towering ice columns at either side of Pakku. She dropped, toppling the columns down to crush the awaiting master. The rumbling cracks of ice shattering exploded into a snow cloud of silence. Reminding herself he was an exceptional master, she waited for the cloud to dissipate and reveal the waterbender within it. It did.
The man stood perfectly still in his practiced stance, one arm held high having deflected the falling debris. "Well; I'm impressed." Pakku chimed with what sounded like sincerity. "You are an excellent waterbender."
Hmph. She could hear the stubbornness in his tone. "But you still won't teach me, will you?" Her words fell out plainly, more rhetorical than a true question. He gave her the answer she expected regardless.
She had done it, she achieved her initial desire. He acknowledged that she, a girl, held substantial bending potential. And yet it just didn't feel enough, having come this far, she couldn't bring herself to just walk away from this now. She reacted instantly.
With a quick upward thrust she raised a segment of the snowy plateau before her and promptly thrusted forward with all her might. The sheet of rolling snow raced to his feet, but he intercepted it and leapt mid-air, raising an ice column high above the battlefield to stand upon.
She was through waiting to see what he would do. She twisted her left leg back, drawing back to heft an expansive torrent of water before swinging it like an immense weapon toward the waiting figure. He intercepted that, too.
Her own torrent of water sprang from her bending grasp, roiling back in a wide arc as it froze to solid ice behind her feet. What is he do- Her eyes spread wide as she attempted to leap away; but he had already slid clean across the ice and met her with a sharp, focused blast of water square in her back.
The sudden strike was so hard her head buckled forward involuntarily, thrown flat to the ground on her chest. She lifted her upper body on her arms, breathless and panting from the agony her body was going through, but fury drove her on. She would never give up; not until Pakku would not fight any longer. She would not be the first to quit.
Oh now what? The old man, now standing on the edge of a water basin, blasted a torrent of water skyward. Quickly she clambered to her feet, glancing up to see just what was going on to try and counter it.
Beams of shining sunlight glistened off an unseen reflective surface in the clear blue sky. Ice. For a brief moment she panicked, throwing her arms up in pure defensive instinct as icy javelins rained down upon her, stabbing at the ground with a series of repeated thuds.
She froze, unmoving, with her eyes closed. Willing her eyes to open she realized just how close to being impaled she had been, surrounded in a cruel grasp of ice that pressed unforgivingly against her body at all angles.
"This fight is over." He declared matter-off-factly, bringing her attention back upon him. Grunting and struggling in frustration, she could only watch as Master Pakku smugly turned up his nose and crossed his arms behind his back. Without a care in the world; he turned to stride away.
"Come back here, I'm not finished yet!" She bellowed, thrusting her elbow back sharply just to impact solid ice.
"Yes, you are." He smugly retorted, his back still to her, yet then he stopped dead.
She froze too, watching him with mounting frustration, demanding with all her mind that he let her go so she could strike him from behind. But the old man simply bent over and seized a blue choker from the ground. Hey isn't that... She was mortified, unable to feel the weight of her mother's necklace about her neck. "This is my necklace..." He hushedly muttered.
"No it's not; it's mine! Give it back!" Oh if only this ice would let her go, she would throttle him harder than he ever would have believed possible now.
"I made this sixty years ago, for the love of my life; for Kanna..."
The use of her grandmother's name struck her dumb. The cold, solid bars of ice spilled over her shoulders, running down her clothes and falling harmlessly as water back into the snowy ground below. She stood absolutely still, gazing at her hands. She no longer felt like striking him down. He seemed to have taken a new, unexpected blow. So had she.
"My gran gran was supposed to marry you?" She uttered in shock, standing limply behind a waterbending master who now had his back to her, clutching of all things, her mother's - no, his? - necklace. She didn't even know what to think any more.
She was faintly aware of the crunch of snow beneath feet behind her, but willfully ignored them still. "I carved this necklace for your grandmother when we got engaged." Pakku spoke audibly, sincerely. His tone spoke of a past of silent regret and sorrow. She couldn't help but feel her heart go out to the poor old man. "I thought we would have a long and happy life together. I loved her..."
"But she didn't love you, did she? It was an arranged marriage." An honest question. But then, Katara felt a sudden similarity between her and her grandmother, a kinship and understanding she hadn't had before. She loved her all the more.
Katara took a few careful steps forward, noting Pakku's mournful glance over his shoulder toward her general direction. "Gran gran wouldn't let your tribe's stupid customs run her life, that's why she left! It must have taken a lot of courage." Her words came calmly, an air of peaceful respect and pleasure to be related to such a brave woman.
Behind her, she heard a lady's soft steps bolt away across the snow, sobbing audibly. She spared a glance back, spotting Yue, her heart going out for all the women of this tribe. Trapped in their customs, yearning to take control of their own lives...but chained by the society they loved. Then she saw Sokka.
Her eyes widened in brief wonder...he was chasing after Yue. Of all the feelings that could have assailed her at this scene, she only felt happy, smiling. Cheer her up, Sokka. Pakku's soft breath drew her attention back, a pair of cool blue eyes resting upon her, weary from decades of experience. Dark frown lines only served to enhance the sullen expression he gave her.
"I made a grave mistake with your grandmother...I took her for granted." He began softly. The cloth band of her necklace hung limp across his closed palm. "It never occurred to me how she felt. I just...I believed in our customs. I believed we would be together." He repeated as his expression became further withdrawn. Suddenly his forefinger stretched for his face, arcing away swiftly as she noted a small globule of frozen water fling from his face to the ground.
Pakku... Her sapphire eyes absorbed his with great sympathy. "And now." For a moment she was taken aback by surprise when he reached out for her, but only for a moment. "I've made a similar mistake with her granddaughter." His fingers gently brushed long strands of loose, dark brown hair from her eyes. She blinked, only just realizing her hair was an utter loose mess. "Katara, of the Southern Water Tribe, you may call me your Master."
Her lips parted involuntarily, eyes wide like saucers as her expression twisted into an excited smile. "Really?" It was too good to be true...her dream, all that she wanted to be, opening up before her very eyes.
"Return here by sunrise tomorrow for your first lesson." He made to turn slightly, yet paused, eyes transfixed upon some distant unseen eddy of his thoughts. It appeared as if a time candle had just gone off in his mind. "There is one thing, however. In exchange; you must do something for me."
In exchange? What? Her gleeful grin contorted slightly, watching curiously as his eyes drifted back to their target, her. "Um...yes, anything! What do you need?" At this point, it didn't matter. She was ready to do almost anything now that she was only a step away.
"I have many questions that I want answered." He matter-of-factly stated; a reflective, deep well of thoughts hidden behind his pools of faded sky blue eyes. He had leaned marginally closer, lowering his voice so his tone would not betray this private conversation with her.
She blinked a few times in surprise and raised an eyebrow dubiously, being courteous enough to whisper back, although she hadn't truly intended to. She noted that when addressed in a whisper, it's interesting how natural it is to respond with one. "Wait a second...you don't mean you want to ask me about gran gran do you?" Awkward. Talking about her grandmother, with her ex-fiance, suddenly felt terribly, terribly out of place. "What do you want to know, exactly?"
"Not yet, little girl." Though he had used this nickname as an insult earlier, this time his words seemed more appreciative. "In time." Unaware of his movement, she found her hand suddenly in his- her palm held upright. He dropped her necklace in it for her to clutch. "Your friend may come as well."
With that, he simply spun on his heel and trudged off without a word, hands clasped behind his back.
Her eyes were still trained on the old figure when she realized a young boy's excited words were assailing her. "Katara! That was amazing! You just took on a master with no training at all!"
A shudder lurched through her body, reminding her that she had been shivering uncontrollably. This wasn't good. Hopefully Sokka left her coat. It felt like the battle had raged on for half an hour, leaving her in the cold just as long. "Aang, can I have my coat?" Seizing a knot of her soaked hair, she wrung out a handful of water and turned to meet a pair of excited gray eyes. "How long were we f-fighting?"
He simply stared at her wide-eyed, his mouth cracked slightly as he made an uh... sound. She frowned. Do I look that bad? She tossed her soaked hair behind her, another hard shudder seizing her muscles. He shook his head swiftly, stopping to lock eyes with her. "Yeah, but um..." He extended the fur coat to her mildly. "You kind of soaked it when you hit Sokka."
When I what? She groaned audibly. Her coat was a sopping mess, putting it on would only make her colder. Her shivers were turning into more frequent shudders, clutching her arms tightly to her soaked clothing in effort to keep warmth, but failing. Aang piped back up, appearing to have forgotten her question entirely. "Oh and, you only fought him for a couple minutes, it wasn't long at all."
What? Are you sure? She laid a dubious expression on him in surprise. The battle had felt so much longer. Must be adrenaline... "I...I n-need to go. I'll be at our h-home." Aang's excited gaze transformed to sudden shock and worry. She forced a flash of a smile. "I'll be fine once I'm there, thanks."
The blankets they had brought were not much comfort at all. She rued Aang's sudden show at waterbending ability all the more now. That had costed them their winter blankets, washed down the creek by that immense flood. Sure, the bedrolls they had now were fur-lined and warm, but they weren't fit for the harsh climates of the Southern and Northern Water Tribe, at least not when you were soaking wet.
She lay within one, a second layered overtop it to help, and one over it. Yes, she was pretty well wrapped in blankets – all three that they had left. She didn't have another change of clothing, so her Water Tribe outfit hung by the hut's burning candles as she shivered uncontrollably in her damp undergarments. The full realization of just what she had done to herself had now sunk in.
Stupid, stupid! She breathed warm air on her fingers, lowering them to her stomach and balling up. She quickly rubbed her hands back and forward, attempting to follow techniques to keep herself warm to fight the possible frostbite she might have taken on.
Why did I take my coat off, why? I should never have done that! But then it would have been soaked while she was wearing it, and she'd have lost the battle all the quicker for that. She closed her eyes; the shudders had faded into sharp, stinging pain in her lower arms, especially her fingertips. Her nose and ears absolutely ached from the torment. She conceded to herself that at least she had been able to fight all the better without it.
The tent's cloth door rustled.
Her eyes shot open, slowly slipping her head out from the bundle of wrappings she was buried beneath. Peering toward the doorway, she spotted Aang standing cautiously by the entrance, next to her clothes by the gentle fire. "Um...I got something for you." Momo leapt off his shoulders, prancing across the fur floor to sit on his haunches beside Katara's head. Aang smiled humorously. "Besides Momo."
Her mind raced, feeling a tense unease, hidden behind the blankets. Then she noticed what he was carrying and her eyes widened immensely. "Where did you get that?"
He held out a new Water Tribe coat, letting it hang loosely before him to reveal a beautiful, yellow full moon etched into its front. "I bought it with some of the money we had leftover. I thought you needed it."
"You bought it? But...Aang! We don't have the m-money for that!" Her words came out semi-weakly, shaking with each word. "We're going to be here for a long time; what are we going to do to eat?"
"Sorry..." His shoulders sagged, the coat dragging the fur floor lightly as his dark gray eyes displayed a crushed remorse.
She dropped her head to the pillow, her loose, cold hair spilling about her as she sighed. "Never mind, we didn't have enough anyway...maybe I can convince Sokka to get a job." She stretched one arm out from the blankets, reaching out for the fur coat he had brought. As he approached, she was distracted at the realization her own fingertips had a lighter hue to them.
Oh no. She frowned, knowing she would probably ache for some time to come. No, it wasn't frostbite; she would have known that by now. But she certainly wasn't well.
Snatching the coat from Aang, she pulled it quickly over her head, struggling beneath the blankets as she hauled herself into its warmth. Popping her head out the top, she momentarily sat up to see how it looked. Despite her constant aches, she smiled. "Thanks Aang...I love it."
"Can I get you anything else?" He posed softly, clasping his hands subconsciously in front of him and twirling his thumbs.
"I just want to be alone for now please." She lay back to the pillow, settling her blue eyes appreciatively on her friend. Momo scurried a next few steps, burying himself just under the pile of blankets to rub up just beneath Katara's neck. She smiled and cuddled herself closer to his small, warm and furry body.
"Okay. See you tonight then..." He turned and headed for the cloth door, glancing back as he passed through it.
She screwed her eyelids shut tightly, swallowing hard. I hope I can shake whatever this is, fast. Left alone again, she withdrew beneath the heap of covers and flipped her hood over her head, finding its warmth much more a familiar and pleasant embrace.
Momo cooed softly, cuddling up against her as his yellow eyes snapped shut with hers. Oh thank you so much... She stroked his fur softly, ready to spend the rest of the day relaxing.
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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