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|My Jennomite Cage|
5-My Jennomite Cage
Aang visits an old memory of his, showing off the grandeur of Omashu to his best friends. This detour turns sour, when they end up captured by the king after a destructive run through his city. Here, Aang is forced to be tested of his ability in order to free his friends from certain death.
Guys, I'd really love some comments for this one. - Constructive ones. This ended up being a long chapter, is this length too much? It feels like a LOT to cram into one page. Also please critique me on the fighting that took place here; did you find it boring, jumpy, hard to follow, etc. ... Comments please! I'm trying to find ways to improve on areas that you, my readers, feel may be a bit laggish.
I think it's interesting, when I have an idea in my head to write on but when I begin writing, the character doesn't want to go that direction! That happened when Katara and Aang were speaking alone together in their cell, I had something totally different in mind; but that simply was not what she had come out. When things like that happen; I feel like I'm really getting a proper grip on the character. Do you agree? On a personal comment; I found particular enjoyment of Katara and Sokka's discussion at the beginning... read on. xD!
"Hey, Aang?" Katara asked as she approached the front of the saddle.
He turned back and stared up from Appa's head. "Don't look! Just go back and sit down, I have a secret for you!"
"You're keeping an elephant koi for a pet?" Sokka idly remarked from the back of Appa's saddle, leaning the back of his head into his hands as he stretched back.
"Even better!" Aang replied waving his arms high. "Now please just turn your backs and don't look!"
"Um, okay..." She turned and flopped down in front of Sokka; who had changed back to his Water Tribe outfit some time after Katara's teasing. "What can be so secret he doesn't want to show us?" She questioned Sokka quietly.
"Hey, I already guessed." He shrugged off her curiosity. "If you ask me, it has something to do with an animal again."
"You're probably right." She muttered as she dropped to her stomach and held her head up in her hands, staring at her brother. "So, did you like her?" An evil grin crossed her lips as her eyes filled with weighty humor.
"Come again?" Sokka pulled his hands from behind his head, dropping them to his lap as he stared down into his sister's face.
"The warrior lady, you know, the one that you crawled begging to?"
His eyes bugged out as he shouted back at her. "I did no such thing!"
She chuckled under her breath as she continued taunting her brother. "You even put on their face paint. You looked so pretty."
His face flushed in frustration. "I-I...!" He turned away from her and began to squirm. "Her name is Suki! Don't make fun of her!"
"So you do like her." She lifted her legs behind her, playfully kicking one forward while the other drew back in repetition. "What'd you do, kiss her?"
"No!" Sokka turned his side to Katara. She could easily see the shock all over his face as he turned away.
"Oh my gosh; you did! You kissed a girl?!" Katara nearly shouted back as her face lit like the southern lights of the South Pole.
"It wasn't like that! I mean, I didn't mean to." He snapped his palm to his forehead. "I mean I didn't! She did. Oh just drop it and leave me alone." He groaned in frustration as he sank back into the saddle.
"Wow." She brought both her legs up behind her, an unfading smile stuck to her face. "Your girlfriend can beat you up," she said singly, her eyes dancing with laughter as she rubbed it in his face.
Sokka gasped as he glared back into her eyes. "She's not my girlfriend, and I said drop it already!"
"Now's not the time to pick a fight guys, I have to show you this! Quick, follow me!" Aang broke them up before leaping off of Appa's head and out of sight; just as he did so, Appa came to a jolting stop as he landed on solid ground.
Approaching Aang, he stood at the ledge of a giant ravine and raised both his arms before him, gripping his staff in his left hand. "The Earth Kingdom city of Omashu!" He declared gladly. "I used to always come here to visit my friend Bumi."
"Wow!" Katara gaped in amazement at the sheer size of this city. A giant outer stone wall surrounded it, and four immense pyramid structures stood proudly just behind the encircled city. "We don't have cities like this in the South Pole!"
"They have buildings here, that don't melt..." Sokka exclaimed in wonder. Katara only gave him a sidelong glance for a moment. So did Kyoshi... But Aang drew her attention again as he bent back around with a huge smile.
"Well let's go slowpokes! The real fun is inside the city!" He instantly airbended into the air; bolting ahead as he began to descend the hillside.
"Wait Aang!" She shouted; leaping after him as her hand rose in protest. "It could be dangerous if people find out you're the Avatar." So far, wherever they had gone, the Fire Nation had some hand in. She remembered Zuko, how could she forget him? So far he was proving to be a typical, terrible firebender; troubling everyone around him.
"You need a disguise." Sokka wisely decided.
"So what am I suppose to do? Grow a mustache?" Aang stated with disbelief. How would he hide his bald self?
"You know what, that's a good idea." Sokka grinned mischievously as he gripped his chin, staring up to the sky in wonder.
Aang gazed dumbstruck at Sokka. "I was just kidding, I'm twelve. I can't grow facial hair yet!"
"No, but I think someone here can grow one for you." Sokka wittingly replied as he turned to gaze at Appa. This intelligence impressed Katara; she crossed her arms and half-smiled at her brother. Very nice, very nice.
After some trial and error, they finally fitted Aang with his own personal white mustache and tall, straight hair tied to his head with rope meant for their belongings. "Ugh! This is so itchy!" Aang complained as he dug at Appa's fur on his head. "How do you live in this stuff?" Appa turned and stared blankly at Aang, then released a solid snort of wind into his face.
Katara stood by merrily, greatly admiring the new look her brother had come up with for Aang. "Great! Now you look just like my grandfather." Sokka commented.
"Technically, he is a hundred and twelve years old." She answered matter-of-factly to her brother. She pondered this for a moment, remembering the face of her dead grandfather. Remarkably, there was a resemblance. She stared curiously at the young airbender before deciding she didn't like that idea.
Aang kicked his staff into the air and spun it masterfully in front of him, snapping it to the ground. "Now let's get to skippin' young whipper-snappers! The big city awaits!" He played his act well, hunching forward feigning a bad back as he used his staff for a walking stick. His imitated voice wasn't half bad, either. He pulled off a great old man. This creeped Katara out a little as she glanced to her brother, spotting he felt the same.
They approached Omashu casually along a stone pathway that had likely been raised by earthbenders. At either side of the path, a sheer straight down drop threatened them should they fall over. From eye level vantage point, the city of Omashu stood high before them, a single circular stronghold surrounded by nothing but a sheer drop-off of a cliff-side.
"You guys are gonna love Omashu!" Aang proclaimed as they continued. "The people here are the friendliest in the world!"
She gazed in concern at a group of green-clad soldiers near the outer wall. A strong, muscle-bound man had addressed a scrawny merchant who had a cart full of cabbages just behind him. "Rotten cabbages? What kind of slum do you think this is?!" Katara and her friends froze. The man crushed a single cabbage with his bare hands, slapped another out of the merchant's hands, and lunged forward with a quick thrust of his arm.
A jut of rocks bent upright below the man's cart with such force it went sailing into the air, before dropping off the side of the cliff. "Ooh! My cabbages!" The merchant cried aloud, gazing after his wares.
"Just keep smiling..." Aang commented as he steadily approached the guards.
Katara laughed nervously, putting on a grand toothy smile to her brother. We're gonna die.
The same soldier stomped his foot to the ground as he stepped forward. With an under the hand swing forward, a boulder larger than Aang lifted from the ground. He held his fist upright, balancing the boulder with earthbending just above Aang's head. "State your business."
In a quick step, Aang thrust forward and began jabbing his finger into the man's chest and shouting in his faked older accent like a lunatic. "My business is my business, young man, and none of yours!"
The boulder the man had been balancing dropped squarely to the ground. The tremor of its' weight horrified Katara as she leapt into the air with her brother. Aang! Stop being an idiot! She cringed as he shoved his finger into the man's face, warranting quite the shocked expression. "I've got half a mind to bend you over my knee and paddle your backside!" Katara shook her head horrified at his behavior. Either he played the part well, or they were about to go over the side like the cart.
"Settle down old-timer! Just tell me who you are."
Aang withdrew his pointed finger, and laid both hands on his walking staff. "Name's Bonzu, Pipinpadaloxicopolis, the third! And these are my grandkids."
I have to do something or he is going to get us in trouble! She stepped forward on cue, standing beside Aang to take away the attention. Speaking as sweetly as she dared, she waved her hand in warm welcome. Let's see, what did he say? Pipin...lox... "Hi! June Pipinpadaloxipolis. Nice to meet you." She smiled heartily at the soldier.
"You seem like a responsible young lady." The man spoke after a moment of contemplation, pointing directly to Katara. "See that your grandfather stays out of trouble! Enjoy Omashu!"
I was just doing that. She reassured him to herself. "We will!" She didn't miss a beat as she began to walk past him at the opportunity.
"Wait a minute!" The guard shouted as they passed him. Oh no! How'd he find out!? She turned with a worried stare, to spot the man lay his hand on Sokka's shoulder. He spun Sokka about to face him. "You're a strong young boy. Show some respect for the elderly and carry your grandfather's bag!"
"Good idea!" Aang piped up immediately, taking off the saddlebag he had thrown about his shoulder. He hurled it up to let it fall on Sokka. Katara smiled and turned back to the wall, ready to get away from them as fast as she could. Uh, it's a solid wall. No door. Now what?
The earth began to shake. Earthbenders from atop the walls worked their art as the stone wall separated in front of them, sliding away at either side to provide entrance. Katara stared in shock as the earth literally moved in front of her. She couldn't even begin to compare the thought of it to waterbending!
With Aang behind, she and Sokka marched ahead and into the city. "Woah." She muttered under her breath, eyeing the tiered city in wonder. The pyramids were actually levels of stone, layered with buildings upon buildings. What looked like long curved rails stretched throughout the city.
"This is the Omashu delivery system!" Aang began providing a tour happily. "Miles and miles of tubes and chutes. Earthbending brings the packages up, and gravity brings them down."
"Great, so they get their mail on time." Sokka stated with settling boredom at Aang's tour.
"They do get their mail on time! But my friend Bumi found a better use for these chutes."
"I'm listening." Sokka stated with similar lack of interest.
"Come with me, I'll tell you as we go."
Katara couldn't get enough of the sights, it was beautiful. Perhaps that wasn't the word, it was breathtaking! Everything was so tall, and seemed so...strong. The buildings here would not simply fall apart, melt, or burn. They seemed sturdy. The people in the streets were all happy, and for once, she forgot they were in the middle of a hundred year war with the Fire Nation. "Okay, so...he used these as a slide? You mean like we did with penguin sledding?" Katara inquired after hearing Aang's tale of his adventures with Bumi.
"Yes! Just like that!" Aang shouted. "You took me penguin sledding, now I'll take you mail cart sliding!"
Wow! She followed Aang up stone steps as they ascended an upper tier of the city. "This sounds so fun!" She exclaimed as she pressed her hands together.
"Eh, you slide down a hill once you've slid down them all." Sokka didn't seem to enjoy the idea of this all that much. Always the one to spoil the fun aren't you? She turned to frown at her brother.
"There!" Aang ran past them to an open chute, and grabbed the back of a stone mail cart. "Climb in, and prepare for the ride of your life, Katara!" She smiled pleasantly as she placed her fingers on the side of the stone, flat bottomed cart.
"What about me?" Sokka asked in protest to Aang's comment.
"Climb in, Sokka!" Aang added as he leapt in just in front of Katara.
"Whatever." Sokka wistfully replied, jumping in to seat himself behind his sister.
"One ride, then we're off to the North Pole, airbender's honor!" He added.
The cart teetered on the edge, rocking back and forth with a soft squeak. Katara gazed over the edge of the ledge they were on. She was high; very, very high. The rooftops appeared to be the size of a tiger seal back home they were so far away. Her stomach rotated as she began to grip both sides of the cart tightly. "This sounded like fun at first; but – now that I'm here, I'm starting to have second thoughts!" She held out her last word in a lasting scream, as Aang bent forward and shot the cart onto the track.
Immediately things went wrong. Just behind the cart, another mail cart jumped into the track. Sliding faster, a rack of spears reached overtop their cart and forced Sokka to duck low against Katara. She turned to see what had her brother so nervous. I'm gonna die! She let out a cry as she edged closer to Aang to avoid the spears.
"I'm on it!" Aang shouted. Rocking side to side, he forced the cart to jump track.
They tore a roof of a building apart, before slipping off and slamming into the ground in front of a group of earthbender soldiers. Katara lost total track of her surroundings as Aang's foot flew up and plowed into her cheek. Grunting in agony she slid back into her brother's chest, but the ride did not stop. Aang seemed to be unaware of what he'd just done to her.
After busting through another mail carrier track, Katara hollered for Aang's attention. "Aang, do something! Use your airbending!" She had never been this fast before, this was horrifying!
"Yeah!" Aang exclaimed with excitement. "Good idea! That'll make us go even faster!"
WHAT?! She reached to slap the back of Aang's head but found herself moving so fast, she couldn't. Instead she ducked back down and held on for dear life. At this point, she couldn't trust anything for survival. Her heart raced, but the cart they were in raced faster.
Descending a gigantic decline, she nearly flew out. Her brother gripped her by her waist as she settled into the cart once again. I love you brother! But then, down the track, they spotted a cart sitting absolutely still with an earthbender by it. They all screamed; they were going to collide! The earthbender thrust his arms out, launching it off-track.
They all breathed a sigh of relief, the track was clear again. He saw us coming. But up shot another loaded cart. They repeated their shouts, as they slammed squarely into it and went airborne, launched out of their cart.
She felt the rush of wind for the first time, beating back her hair and pressing her cheeks in with ferocity. She couldn't cry, couldn't scream, and couldn't even move. Terror seized her heart as she saw the stone street below closing in quickly. In the next moment, the cart swung beneath them again as she felt a strong, invisible pressure shove her back into where she had been sitting. She couldn't make sense of what happened, unable to realize Aang just airbended them to safety, before they slammed into the city district and plowed through numerous people's homes and rooftops, causing immense damage.
Completely bewildered, she held on tightly as they went airborne again, falling into the air above the cart. Gravity pulled the heavy stone mail cart away from Katara's fingers. The stone street quickly reached up to take hold of her. In a horrifying three seconds, sounds of wood crushed under stone, cabbages flying everywhere and a man screaming about them, all confused her. She didn't even feel the impact as her head met the stone street.
Half unconscious, she remained absolutely still. She was arched up against Sokka, with Aang's foot again in her face, his back arched over her hind side. It wasn't until the guards gently helped her up, as they feared the girl may be injured, that she put two and two together and realized Aang had the softest landing of the three.
After a short, jarring walk, her head still spun and ached. But for all purposes, her senses had returned. I lived. I'm alive. Aang, I'll kill you. Just not yet. She implored with herself, though she didn't intend to follow through with it. Her brother seemed alright, he was already stating how hungry he was to the guards, who didn't take kindly to the request.
They were led through stylish wooden doors, and into a great chamber. At the far end of the green carpeted, decorative room, an immense throne sat with earthbenders positioned at either side of an old white-bearded, balding individual who sat patiently awaiting them.
Something had been said about judgment, or was it justice? Whatever it was the old man in front of them likely was an important figurehead to the city. She hung her head forward in wary, apologetic respect, gazing across the great distance of the room with the saddest, most pitiful eyes she could summon.
The two guards behind them placed hands on their shoulders, shoving them to their knees. Katara quickly submitted, dropping to her knees willingly. "Your majesty, these juveniles were arrested for vandalism, traveling under false pretenses, and malicious destruction of cabbages."
"Off with their heads!" The angry cabbage merchant from outside shouted, with plenty dancing footsteps and shaking of his fist. "One for each head of cabbage!"
"Silence!" The guard shouted in haughty protest with an outstretched hand. "Only the king can pass down judgment." He lowered his hand, returning his gaze to the king. "What is your judgment, Sire?"
The old man squinted, providing a crooked gaze to the three. Katara's heart weighted with fear. Maybe the king will kill Aang before I do. She attempted to joke, knowing she wouldn't. She heard her brother to her left begin sputtering and stammering in fear. She instead, gripped her hands together in high hopes in front of her neck. She smiled mightily and opened her sparkling blue eyes wide. Maybe I can win him with charm? She prayed.
She heard Aang begin whistling. Why am I always the only one with any sense?! She whined miserably to herself as the king lifted a finger high into the air. "Throw them..." All three gasped, attention falling squarely on his face. "...A feast."
"Argh!" The merchant slapped his hands to his face, as the guards gasped in wonder.
Katara turned her head, gazing curiously towards Aang. "Huh?" Aang wondered aloud as his face twisted into confusion. Sokka however grinned mightily at the word, feast.
Momo simply sat quietly by Aang's side, his ears fully wrapped down about his body, looking up in fear at the earthbenders.
But in the next half hour, Momo was thrilled again. Merrily he chewed down many morsels of food strewn about a grand table. Katara sat beside Aang, with her brother on his other side, each with a plate before them that held a drumstick. The old man, the king, dropped his hands to both her and her brothers' chairs, leaning his bearded face beside Aang. She gazed up in confusion to the old man as he began to chuckle, two immense feathers reaching out either side of his lofty green capped crown. "The people in my city have gotten fat from too many feasts. So I hope you like your chicken with no skin." He asserted as he reached down, lifting Aang's drumstick and waving it before him.
"Thanks, but I don't eat meat." Aang stated. He doesn't? Katara pondered, having not known that before.
"How about you?" He turned his attention to Sokka. "I bet you like meat." Without awaiting an answer, he reached over and slammed the drumstick right into Sokka's willing mouth.
The man turned his back to the three and began pacing for his high chair at the opposite edge of the table. Katara took the opportunity to lean close to Aang and twirl her finger by her head. "Is it just me, or is this guy's crown a little crooked?" She smiled in jest finishing her insult.
"So tell me; young bald one. Where are you from?" The man questioned as he dropped into his armchair.
"I'm from..." He hesitated. "Kangaroo Island!"
"Oh, Kangaroo Island 'ey?" He propped one hand on his armrest, shoving him forward as he bugged one eye out at them. "I hear that place is really hopping!"
Silence. Even Sokka can't like that corny humor. Katara stared in disbelief. But then, Sokka on cue burst out laughing. How am I related to you? She turned and gazed past Aang to her biological brother. "What?" He held his arms out in question. "It was pretty funny..."
The old man stretched, and opened his mouth into a wide yawn. "Well, all these jokes are making me tired...guess it's time to hit the hay." He feigned rising from his chair lazily, twisting to his side as his hand slipped into his robed sleeve. In the next moment, his arm snapped forward as he hurled something across the table at Aang. Katara slid to one side in her chair slowly and glanced to Aang as he airbended it into still motion before it would strike him; it was just a drumstick.
The guards in the room all gasped at Aang. "There's an airbender in our presence; and not just any airbender." The king rose to his feet, adding to his speech. "The Avatar!" Then the man dropped back to his seat as Aang gasped and whipped his hands back to sit on them, letting the chicken fall to his plate. "Now, what do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Pipinpadaloxicopolis?" He leaned forward on one arm as he again bugged one eye out in triumph.
"Okay! You caught me." Aang rose from his chair and lifted his hands in the air. "I'm the Avatar. Doing my Avatar thing, keeping the world safe." Katara was speechless as Aang gave his testimony. "Everything checks out!" He peered under the table. "No firebenders here! Soo...good work everybody!" He gripped both Sokka and Katara by their shoulders and pulled them from their chairs, backing away for the door. "Love each other, respect all life! And don't run with your spears. We'll see you next time!"
Just as they reached the door, the two guards standing watch crossed their spears behind them, refusing to allow their departure. They can't do this! Aang is the Avatar, we have to go! Katara knew they weren't in the position to barter though. However, it didn't hurt to play the almighty Avatar card. "You can't keep us here. Let us leave!"
The old king eyed her with curiosity, as he lifted a green leaf to his mouth. "Lettuce leaf?" He asked calmly before he took a bite from it.
"We're in serious trouble. This guy is nuts!" Sokka whispered to them. Master of the obvious as always brother. She frowned.
"Tomorrow; the Avatar will face three deadly challenges. But for now, the guards will show you to your chamber."
His nearby guard leaned in and began questioning him regarding the chamber mentioned. Katara couldn't quite hear or make sense of the nonsensical rambling that took place, until the king lifted his hand to provide a further demand. "Take them to the refurbished chamber; that was once, bad!" He really IS off his rocker.
Katara kept quiet as they were escorted down a long hallway to a solid wall. Once there, the earthbender guard lifted his hand and dropped it low, as the stone wall descended into the floor. Once the wall opened to a large, circular room, the guard behind rose his spear sideways and shoved all three in through the new opening. Inside, the wall instantly rose back up in less than two seconds, closing without leaving so much as a seam.
Wow. Katara examined their room. There were beautiful, green glowing rocks adorning the walls, with overhanging green, stylish curtains draping from the ceiling above. A circular round yellow table rested in the center of the room, with a golden bowl of delicious fruits atop it. Around this table rested three beds, evenly spaced with their stuffed headrests pointing to the table. "This is a prison cell?" Katara stated in surprise. "But it's so nice!"
"He did say it was newly refurbished!" Aang proposed.
"Nice or not, we're prisoners!" Sokka interjected. He has a point. She considered, propping her hands on her hips.
"I wonder what these challenges are gonna be." Aang worriedly stated, grabbing his staff in both his hands as he looked down.
"We're not sticking around to find out." Katara added. "There's got to be some way out of here." But how? There was nothing but a smooth, curved wall all around them with small dark, circular holes spaced apart. Their bending had no hope of freeing them from this.
"The air vents!" Aang ecstatically called out, pointing to the small holes in the wall, nearly two times their height above them.
No way! I am starting to hate your ideas. She thought as she gazed at Aang with alarm. "If you think we're gonna fit through there, you're crazier than that king!" Sokka retaliated, with Katara's approval.
Aang glanced to his friend confidently. "We can't. But Momo can!" Oh, not a bad idea! Katara smiled pleasantly. Aang began explaining to Momo that he was to be their savior, to head out and find Appa. It didn't seem to get through to the lemur, who lay on its' back on the bed indulging its' fruit.
"Go on boy, get Appa!" He shouted behind Momo, shoving him in the air vent that he simply didn't fit in."Ah, how was Appa supposed to save us anyway?" Sokka mildly stated as he laid in one of the three beds he'd chosen. Aang had given up shoving Momo through the hole just after this, although Momo remained stuck at the air vent's entrance with his hind feet and tail dangling out.
"Appa is a ten ton flying bison. I think he could figure something out."
"Well, no point arguing about it now." Katara added. "Get some rest Aang; looks like you'll need it for tomorrow." She crawled gently under the silky green sheets, as all three took their own bed.
Just minutes later, Sokka had begun snoring up a storm. Katara lay on her back, with her hands on her ears trying to relax but failing. She moaned in disgust and rolled onto her side, away from her brother. "Can't sleep?" Aang asked. "Me either."
She glanced up, and spotted him lying on his stomach eyeing her. Reactively, an eyebrow shot high on her forehead. "Have you just been watching me?" She asked loudly in mild shock.
Aang began to laugh nervously under his breath as he straightened up. "It's not my fault... I couldn't sleep!"
That isn't hard to believe. She glanced to her brother. "Neither can I. I think he's seen too much excitement lately, he's usually not this bad."
Aang fell back to his pillow and began to smile. "Did you know you snore at times?" Her eyes widened as she looked up at Aang unpleasantly. "No-no, it isn't a bad snore! It's a soft, cute snore." He quickly replied apologetically.
She rolled her eyes and turned away. "You need to rest."
"But I can't," he said sadly.
Letting out a sigh, she rolled over onto her stomach and stretched her arms in front of her, gazing up at Aang in his bed. "Is something wrong?"
"Well, I'm kind of feeling guilty for getting you into this." Aang lowered his eyes to the stone floor between them.
"And for kicking me in the face twice?" She hadn't forgotten that. "My face still hurts. I'm surprised I didn't break my jaw when I hit the street with it."
"I did?" His gray eyes rose to her sorrowfully. "Katara... I'm sorry." He almost sounded like he could cry; gazing at her with the biggest eyes he'd given her yet.
Oops. She sighed. This wouldn't help him sleep at all, and he had a big day set out for him tomorrow that he had to get sleep for. "It's okay Aang. I am feeling better than I was...maybe I just wasn't doing it right."
"I should have been more careful." He dropped his head, resting his cheek on his pillow; the blue stripe running across his bald head was all she could now see.
"Well, that wouldn't have hurt any but it's over and done now Aang." She climbed out of her bed and walked over to his. He looked up to her, and she noticed he had turned away because he really had begun to cry. "Oh Aang..." She knelt down and hugged him, pressing her cheek tightly against his. "I'm not mad at you. I just want you to rest now, okay?" She spoke softly, trying to encourage him to rest.
"Okay." He smiled up to her as he wiped his face on his sleeve. "See you tomorrow Katara."
She smiled warmly down to him. "Goodnight." Although it was still another half hour before she could master sleeping against her brothers' loud snoring, and it didn't help any when Aang began to snore just fifteen minutes in.
When she next woke, it was with cold stone pressing against her mouth so tightly that she couldn't scream. She kicked up out of bed, only to be grabbed by four hands from nearby earthbender guards. Easily, she was picked up and carried out squirming leaving her brother and Aang behind; though she saw guards approaching Sokka just as she was carried off. Just outside of the room, they covered a blindfold on her.
What are they going to do to me!? She panicked as she was led stumbling along some steps or loose carpet, down several hallways and turns. Finally, the firm hand on her arm let up allowing her to stand freely. Then off came the blindfold, as well as the solid stone covering her mouth that had kept her speech blocked. "Blagh!" She spit out pieces of stone she'd licked accidentally before glaring at her captor. "Where are you taking me?"
"Here." He stated singly, unmoving.
She glanced around her; they were at the end of a hallway staring at just a blank wall. There was nothing else nearby. "What, are we to be kept in separate cells now, is that it?"
"You'll see, just keep quiet." He answered her as she noticed another guard approaching, leading Sokka in front of him.
"No, I won't keep quiet! Take us back to Aang!" She struggled back as the man grabbed her forearm firmly in his grip. He was much stronger than she was; try as she might to tug away his grip only tightened. She feared he might leave a bruise if she kept pulling.
"Stop resisting!" He shouted at her hatefully. "Don't make this more difficult than it has to be." He reached into his pocket with his left hand and withdrew a small, green crystal ring.
"What is that? What are you going to do with that?" She straightened up and ceased resisting.
"Enough questions, you'll see in due time." He finished as the other guard finished unbinding Sokka.
"Morning sis." He gave Katara a sleepy-eyed smile. "That bed was awesome. Can we get one for Appa's saddle?"
She turned back and glared at her captor. "Aang will not let you get away with this!"
He only sighed, quite sick of her rants, and didn't bother replying. Then the wall directly in front of them crumbled to the floor. "Finally free of her." He muttered under his breath just as she caught sight of Aang and the king conversing.
"So I will give your friends some special souvenirs!" She heard the king declare to Aang. She ground her teeth together and lurched back as the guard holding her immediately slid the oversized crystal ring over her index finger. "Those delightful rings are made of pure jennomite; also known as creeping crystal."
As soon as it was placed on her index finger, the guard withdrew his hand. Instantly it flashed a hue of green, and then shrank to the size of her finger. She felt its' pressure grip firmly in place and stared horrified, before grabbing it with her other hand and jerking hard to pull it off. It's not moving! Oh no, what's going to happen? "It's a crystal that grows remarkably fast. By nightfall, your friends will be completely covered in it. Terrible fate, really. I can stop it, but only if you cooperate." The king continued speaking to Aang.
"Aah!" Sokka shouted. She tossed her head aside to gaze at her brother. "It's already creeping!" It had! It was already expanded up his finger for his hand.
"I'll do what you want." Aang stated firmly. Katara gazed at Aang. He'll protect me. Don't even think about what happens by nightfall.
Only walking to the underground waterfall that was to prove as Aang's first deadly test reminded her of her danger. The ring was no longer a ring, but a glove! She tugged at it with her other hand; it was so tight she couldn't budge a finger inside of it. "I wouldn't do that, unless you want your other hand to get stuck there too." She pulled her hand back with a grimace as a nearby guard warned her. Just as she reached the edge, gazing over towards the waterfall, it crept again as it reached up her arm.
The king let out a sinister, crazy laugh as he glanced back and watched the crystal creep up her arm. He looked down to the floor of the cavern, many stone stalactites and stalagmites filled the cave. "It seems I've lost my lunchbox key; and I'm hungry." He pointed to the center of the waterfall. "Oo, there it is. Would you mind fetching it for me?"
Heartless old geezer. She glared at his back. The crystal crept up her arm once again, expanding to her forearm. "Oo, climbing the ladder. No one's ever thought of that before." The king jeered at Aang. Katara stepped forward with Sokka to see what was going on. Watch out! Katara watched in horror as Aang was thrown from the waterfall, nearly impaled by the stalagmites below. But he caught himself, sliding to a stop using his arms and legs pressed against two.
You'll figure it out, keep trying... Aang bolted to the ceiling, balancing between two stalactites. The next thing she noticed, he dove headfirst for the waterfall, airbending himself at high speeds into its' mighty torrent. Just as he plunged in, however, he was tossed back out. He slammed into a stalagmite, nearly falling off of it before wrapping his arms around to hold him in place. "That's right. Keep diving head in; I'm sure it will work eventually." The king jeered once again.
Katara watched closely as Aang broke off the tip of the stalagmite. Her eyes widened; how did he do that!? Then he poised on one foot and threw it forward. She stared in awe; he must be physically strong, though she had no idea. He looked so tiny and frail. He must have aided his throw with airbending, but still he broke it with his bare hands! He fired an airbending blast just after it, which blasted out enough water just in time for the spike to pierce the chain dangling the key and slam it into the wall just above everyone's heads.
"Wuuh?" The king commented idly as he gazed up. Katara leaned back and gaped at the spike holding the dangling key above their heads.
"There, enjoy your lunch! I want my friends back, now!" Aang shouted.
"Uh, not yet! I need help with another matter." The king clasped his hands together and audibly sounded saddened. "It seems I've lost my pet Flopsie." Flopsie? Are you sure you aren't referring to yourself? She stared in wonder at the king, she couldn't fathom how this man's mind worked.
Aang rejoined them as they made their way to the next arena. "I've lost count how many times that boy has almost gotten us killed." Sokka whispered to Katara as the creeping crystal crept up to her shoulder. She winced, that actually hurt! It had poked her under her arm cruelly.
"Uh, twice since we've been here. Wait, no, three – he could have had us thrown over the cliff by those guards outside." She whispered back, keeping their little discussion a secret from Aang. "And that's just here."
"Tell me why we came here again?" Sokka questioned, raising his eyebrows in wonder.
"What, to Omashu?" She blinked, and turned her head forward to stare at the back of the king's purple robes. "Uh..." She frowned. "Right, Aang wanted to play again." How did I miss that?
"Say something?" Aang piped up as he stepped closer, hearing his name.
"Nope, not us." Katara shot back to keep Sokka's mouth from opening first. The crystal crept further, growing down her chest for her waist and down her other arm. "Oh my gosh!" Her head flew back in surprise as it clamped tightly about her collar bone in turn.
"Mommy." Sokka cried as the same happened to him. Mommy? You call yourself a warrior.
Aang frowned, a cruel stare overcoming him. He stomped his feet to the ground as he paced past his friends to the king. "Enough games!" He shouted from behind as he reached the king. "You didn't even need the key for that last challenge; you're just playing with me. And now you need to find your pet? Let my friends go!" You tell him Aang!
The king stopped walking at the side of a vast drop, and pointed down to the arena. "Ah, here at last. Now, where is my little Flopsie. Flopsie shouldn't be too difficult to spot, could you go down and bring him to me?" Katara glanced sidelong to her brother. He has a one-track mind. Sokka rolled his eyes straight up, as the crystal crept down below his chest for his waist. "It shouldn't take long. I'm sure your friends would appreciate if you finished your tasks as quickly as possible." Aang didn't answer. He just stepped to the side and leapt over the edge in anger.
"Okay! Found him!" Aang shouted as he landed in the arena the king led him too. She actually smiled; the creature was cute! It was a floppy eared white rabbit.
"Bring him to me! Daddy wants a kiss from Flopsie!" He joyously shouted. Katara rolled her eyes and glanced to her brother, who shared the same sullen expression.
"Come here Flopsie." Aang approached the rabbit, just as an enormous gorilla-goat slammed down behind him. This enormous creature frightened the small rabbit, causing it to bolt away from Aang amid small shrills. "Flopsie, wait! Flopsie!" Aang leapt out of the way and began chasing the rabbit, as the gorilla-goat chased after him and destroyed the rock the rabbit had been resting on with a fist larger than Aang.
The king let loose a horribly horrifying laughter, enjoying the show. At this, Katara's faced fumed. If that creature hurts Aang, I'll run this heavy jennomite into you and knock you right in there with it!
She watched helplessly as Aang simply stood, then was picked up by it screaming. She couldn't see what the beast was doing, but it looked like he started eating Aang! AH! Her eyes widened, before realizing that it wasn't when Aang shouted. "Flopsie!" Her concern turned to confusion. Flopsie.
The king whistled, summoning Flopsie to climb up and flop onto its back. He toyingly rubbed its belly. "Aaww, that's a good boy. Yes! Who has a soft belly?" She rolled her eyes.
The jennomite may as well have been a dress by now. She couldn't see anything but crystals below her, and couldn't move her arms. Walking was a horrible chore, it was all she could do to stand upright against its' weight. Aang leapt up over the ledge. "Guys! Are you okay?"
"Other than the crystals slowly encasing my entire body?" She mocked, attempting to thrust her arms open for effect which only brought her a sharp pain as that failed. "Doin' great!" She heard the crinkle of the crystals growing again and grimaced, what part of her body would bear the pain this time? But she felt nothing, and glanced to Sokka. It was him, the crystals off-balanced him and he fell off his feet sideways, landing with a solid grunt.
Aang scowled, and approached the goofy king. "Come on." He ordered as his hands braced his hip. "I'm ready for the next challenge." This only brought a crooked, toothy, and laughing grin on the old king's aged face.
As they made their way to a large arena, Katara began to actually get frightened. Was Aang going to be too slow? The crystals crept up; she felt it press firmly against her hair bun, shoving her head forward slightly. It was starting to get tight to move even her head!
"Your final test... is a duel. And, as a special treat, you may choose your opponent." He warned Aang. Katara smiled. Aang, dueling? You're so going down. But then she saw two men step in behind the king. One hefted a huge axe and shoulder armor; the other held a scythe-like weapon, and a metallic, clawed right hand. "Point and choose!" The king humorously stated, standing between the two.
She heard Aang whine to himself as he observed his to-be opponents. "So, you're saying whoever I point to...that's the person I get to fight?" Aang questioned nervously.
"Choose wisely." The king mockingly taunted.
Katara worried about Aang fighting one of the warriors. Choose the king Aang! Choose him! "I...choose...you!" He pointed directly at the king. She smiled fiendishly, seeing Aang thought like her.Instead, the king mockingly laughed. "Wrong choice!" The king began to nearly growl as he straightened his posture. A sickening 'crack-crunch-pop' resounded as his back fully straightened, ending with his bellowing laughter. Katara stared in awe, her jaw agape. Her stomach sank as the king shrugged off his royal purple garb to reveal his muscular form, following with an earthbending kick that launched Aang screaming into the arena. Following this, the king leapt firmly over the edge and slammed to the ground, finishing the fearful effect for her. This isn't fair!
"You thought I was a frail, old man. But I'm the most powerful earthbender you'll ever see!"
Aang stood and pointed back to the stage. "Can I fight the guy with the axe instead?"
"There are no take-backsies in my kingdom." He pointed up towards Katara and Sokka. "You might need this!" She glanced to her left to see an earthbender soldier toss Aang's staff into the arena.
The fight was on. She watched as the old man thrust rocks into the air, launching them with a solid fist punch towards Aang. Aang batted each of the rocks off with his staff, jumping just in time for one to sail beneath his legs. "Typical airbender tactic; avoid and evade. I'd hoped the Avatar would be less predictable!"
The king stomped the ground, bringing a boulder the size of Aang up into the air. Then with a dual open-palmed thrust, he shoved forward just shy of touching the rock. It sailed right for Aang, but he leapt high into the air spinning his staff madly to keep himself drifting mid-air. "Don't you have any surprises for me? Sooner or later you'll have to strike back!" The king again jeered the playful airbender.
This time, the king stomped the ground hard. An even larger boulder rose above the king's head. "Hrum!" He grunted loudly as he leapt into the air and gave a two-legged straight kick to the boulder. It sailed just past Aang, so he didn't dodge it. However, it struck the ceiling and exploding, launching numerous shards and rock pieces into Aang from above.
Aang screamed in surprise as he plummeted to the ground, his staff bouncing away. Quickly regaining himself, he took off darting straight for the king. But the old man retaliated with a seemingly dance step, moving side-to-side with his arms pulled in. As he did so, each step launched a diagonal stone pillar at Aang from below, forcing him to dodge left and right. "Oh you'll have to be a little more creative than that." The king teased as Aang was struck by one of his blows, carrying him high into the air.
Then, Aang mounted his air scooter, a swirling ball of contained air, and skidded down from his position and across the arena like a shot, bounding off the wall as he hauled his arm back and thrust forward as if swinging a sword. "Hwah!"
A heavy gale thrust for the king. Katara's eyes lit up as she bounced up and down for a moment. Go Aang! "Uh, I wouldn't do that if I were you." Sokka commented at seeing her bound around.
"Oh, right." She steadied herself, finding that she was off-balance as it was. Criick. She heard the crystal creep further again, but didn't see or feel it this time. The only part of her body uncovered was the front of her face, it had already reached up behind her head and down by her feet, though her feet were still free to shuffle back and forwards to maintain balance. ...for now.
She glanced back down, realizing she missed what happened. "Did someone leave the windows open? It feels a little drafty in here! Are you hoping I'll catch a cold?" She frowned; Aang's attack didn't do anything to the master earthbender.
She watched as he kicked his stone wall forward he had brought up, and then rode it like a surfboard before slamming it to the ground, launching a wave of rocks into the air as if it were a wave of water. WHAT?! She scowled in astonishment, at seeing earth bend like water. Even worse! Aang leapt to cross over it, and the wave suddenly spiraled into the air and slammed into him like a fist. Aang went bouncing like a doll. Oh no! Is he hurt? She gasped, so did her brother, as the king launched a straightforward wave of flowing rock with a forward punch to the ground.
Aang bolted overtop this and gripped his staff up off the ground. "How are you going to get me from way over there?" No Aang, watch out, it's a trap! But Aang took off bolting at him with his airbending. The ground turned to quicksand with a forward downward sweep of the king's leg, and Aang sank unable to move. What happened next horrified Katara. Two halves of one large boulder slid straight for each other, colliding with a solid tremor right where Aang had just been.
"No..." She grimaced, having whispered this quietly. She turned her head away as all was quiet for a moment.
"Hyaah-HA!" She heard Aang's cry. Aang! She glimpsed back in time to see a heavy blast of air throw the king back and slam him into the wall. YES! Whoo! Give him another one!
Then, the very boulder that had been used to attempt to crush Aang before began sailing at him. Aang airbended straight up, only able to bend his body just enough to barely miss scraping the boulder as it passed. However, the king was right in line for it. As it plowed straight into him his earthbending blasted it to sand; however the impact forced him to slide back a foot.
She felt her feet shake. "What's happening?" She glanced to the stadium to her right where the king had been prior. It ripped straight off the wall and soared overhead of the king, where it stopped poised in his earthbending grasp. He's going to throw the entire wall at him!
Apparently Aang realized this too. What hair of hers was free began to whip madly about her head, her hair loopies flailing in the wind. She couldn't see him anymore; an immense whirlwind of dust filled the air as the king hurled the stone wall at Aang. The force behind Aang's whirlwind whipped the wall straight back at the king of Omashu, and indirectly towards Katara and Sokka. She panicked at the sight and backed up, bumping into her brother. "He's about to kill us AGAIN!" Sokka cried aloud to Katara.
"Aah!" She wailed just as the Earth King split the wall in two, successfully deferring any blow from it. Her heart pounding, she glanced down in time to see Aang slam in front of the king, his staff square in his face. Although, the king held an immense remainder of the wall above his head still. She couldn't hear anything, until she saw the stone hurled away safely.
Her jaw fell open again as the king 'swam' up into the air just in front of her, traversing through the very stone floor! WHAT?! She indirectly shouted again. How can earthbenders treat earth like water! That's not fair!
Aang whirled his staff above his head, floating up to the podium where he landed softly. "You've passed all my tests. Now, you must answer one question."
"That's not fair! You said you would release my friends if I finish your tests!"
"Oh but what's the point of tests, if you don't learn anything?"
"Oh come on!" Sokka hollered from behind.
"Answer this one question, and I will set your friends free. What..." He paused, and gave Aang a welcoming grin. "...is my name?" He gave a single glance to his friends before walking off. "From the looks of your friends, I'd say you only have a few minutes!"
"How am I supposed to know his name?" He questioned his friends.
"Think about the challenges, maybe it's some kind of riddle!" Katara held hope; there was just one step left to take and she'd be free of this mess.
"I GOT IT!" Sokka bellowed.
"Yeah?" Aang replied.
"He's an earthbender, right? Rocky! Y'know, because of all the rocks!"
She stared at Sokka from behind her wall of jennomite with sheer wonder. Not even an extra one hundred pounds of crystal changes the way you think, does it. "We're gonna keep trying, but that is a good backup."
"Okay, so back to the challenges." Aang attempted to get somewhere with this. "I got a key from a waterfall, I saved his pet, and I had a duel."
"And what did you learn?" Work with him, work with him!
"Well, everything was different than I expected..."
"Aand...?" She questioned, and then grimaced as her last few minutes made their selves clear. The jennomite stretched up, pressing firmly into her cheek. Now she couldn't even turn her head without rubbing up against the stone. Faster Aang faster! I really do just have minutes!
"Well...they weren't straightforward. To solve each test, I had to think differently than I usually would." He grinned confidently. "I know his name!"
"Great! Go tell him, now!" Katara shouted. "We'll catch up; just go!"
"Will do, it's that mad genius, Bumi!" He bolted off past them.
After another couple minutes of hobbling along slowly due to the weight, it crept further, encasing her head entirely in the crystal, leaving only her face exposed. She couldn't move anything, just wobble her feet. "I can't see! Help! I can't see!" Sokka cried out as the crystal covered his eyes.
"Follow my voice, or just bump into my back and follow me!" She called out. "I can still see for another minute."
Entering the grand chamber, they stepped right up behind Aang and the king. "Uh, over here!" Katara screamed.
"Little help!?" Sokka followed.
Instantly the king used his earthbending to shatter the stone surrounding them. As it burst, she let out a breath as her body freed. She stared in awe for a moment. I'm alive! ...again. "Jennomite is made of rock candy. Delicious!" The king commented as he merrily chewed on a piece.
"So this crazy king, is your old friend Bumi?" Katara questioned in mild disbelief.
"Who are you calling old?!" He called out to Katara, and then shrugged. "Okay, I'm old."
"Why did you do all this; instead of just telling Aang who you were?" Sokka appropriately questioned.
"First of all; it's pretty fun messing with people." He laughed, breaking into a snort. Katara scowled for a moment as she gripped her hands in front of her. Okay, he really is crazy. "But I do have a reason!" He turned to Aang. "Aang, you have a difficult task ahead. The world has changed in the hundred years you've been gone. It's the duty of the Avatar to restore balance to the world by defeating Firelord Ozai. You have much to learn; you must master the four elements, and confront the Firelord. And when you do..." He leaned in. "I hope you will think like a mad genius!"
Katara rolled her eyes. We already knew that gramps. But she couldn't help but smile as she saw Aang gave an appreciative bow to his old friend. "And it looks like you're in good hands. You'll need your friends to help you defeat the Fire Nation." Momo scurried back into view again, and clambered up Aang's back to poise just beside his head. "And you'll need Momo too!"
"Thank you for your wisdom. But before we leave, I have a challenge for you!"
"Oh-hoho!" He snorted in laughter as he bent forward. "Let's have it, Avatar!"
"Let's you, and me, ride the mail cart chutes!"
Katara shook her head. Kick the king in the face; that sounds better. I'm not getting on that thing again. "Well I'll go get Appa. I'll see you afterwards Aang."
"Yeah me too, I don't think I'm up for round two this time." Sokka turned to his sister.
"That's fine guys; I was hoping to go alone with Bumi anyway! You know, for old times' sake."
As the four began to walk out of the palace together, Sokka wouldn't shake a puzzled look off his face. "Rock candy? What happens if you eat creeping crystal?"
"It fills you up!" King Bumi exclaimed. "I don't recommend trying it if you don't know an earthbender. You know, in case you can't digest it fast enough. But otherwise it's perfectly safe! But that's why we don't eat creeping crystal; we eat the rock candy it leaves behind."
Katara grimaced and turned for the door, making her way out in front of Sokka. "I'll just stick to what we've been having, thanks."
Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg
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