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|Captains of the General|
8-Captains of the General
The premise behind this scene is that Katara and her companions have just fled the Prison Rig, with Katara bearing mixed feelings towards the events of the morning. She still bears wounds over her lost necklace, but yet remains strong over the good that she had brought. In the end; she garners aid for the rebelling earthbenders in their efforts to reconquer their homes, and lets out her pain to Aang as she gradually accepts her loss.
This chapter was developed because it was awkward that Katara did not portray any sort of discomfort due to her loss of her mother's necklace at all, even to the point of being gleeful in the very next scene we spot her in. Another point of interest is, she is never shown telling Aang about her mother's necklace (to my knowledge?), and yet he seems to know it belongs to her mother automatically in later chapters. This had to be filled in.
And yes; it's one of my shorter chapters. I don't guess that is a problem, considering that it still is somewhat long? I like to have plenty of content in my work. =] Also; I decided to upload this chapter without a picture for now. The drawing I was doing didn't turn out well enough for me to acceptably upload. Sure, it looks okay, but it needs some work. I now totally have to use Vector Art, this bitmap stuff just doesn't cut it - I hate these bumpy edges, it's so nasty when trying to include small details. So yeah, maybe some other day I'll get a picture up for this. I hope so.
"So uh, what about food?" Sokka questioned after what seemed like hours of silent flight. "We haven't eaten anything since Katara got herself arrested yesterday."
"What I ate couldn't be called food." Katara muttered quietly, remembering whatever soup that was. She had let go of most of her emotions, but still bore the loss of her necklace deeply.
"What?! You mean they fed you?" Sokka huffed, crossing his arms and snarling to his sister. "You could have at least kept leftovers to share!"
Not in the mood, Sokka. She rolled over, placing her face against the back of the saddle."Look!" Aang exclaimed as he stood up from Appa's head, pointing forward. Katara lifted up and rolled to her knees, crawling to the side of the saddle to gaze over its edge. A tall stone wall stretched into rocky mountains, disappearing from sight as it rose and fell with the curves of the land. In the far distance tall circular walls and numerous towers could be seen.
"Dinner..." Sokka nearly drooled as he began rapping his fingers together in front of his face anxiously.
She drew her legs up beside her and sat up, commenting to Aang quietly. "Just remember it's probably safest that we keep hiding you're the Avatar for now."
After safely landing Appa just out of sight on a hillside, Katara followed her brother and Aang through a forest towards the city walls they had spotted. "Y'know, I'm not sure that's such a good disguise Aang." Sokka suggested, eyeing his only change to his outfit; a straw hat.
"But just yesterday it was your idea." Aang quipped, turning a toothy grin to him.
"Oh, right..." He turned away, embarrassed.
Katara shook her head as she trailed behind them. "Standing with you two; I look like the one out of place here."
"That's great! Thanks Katara, this way everyone will be giving you the strange looks." Aang shouted in exclamation.
He didn't just insult me... She simply frowned, before Sokka added in his two cents. "Why are you still wearing those dirty rags anyway? You're still wearing your Water Tribe clothing underneath."
"Well right now it's going to serve as a good disguise." She pulled her arms into her brown baggy sleeves, pressing them against her chest as she gripped either arm tightly.
A moment later they stepped onto a stone path, a sheer cliff immediately to their right descending to the ocean below. Ahead of them stood a large white watchtower with a golden-yellow roof, the same style as all other towers in the area surrounding the walls to their left.
At the base of the watchtower, earthbender guards sat idly playing a game of pai sho and talking amongst each other, ignoring their surroundings. The three stared nervously at each other as to what they should do, but kept walking.
Momo cooed, wrapping his tail around Aang's neck as he ducked at the sight. Aang patted his head, before stuffing him out of sight beneath his orange-red over shirt. "Stay hidden."
Surprisingly, they passed by the guards unnoticed, and turned left approaching an immense wooden gate on the other side of a short bridge. This was the entrance. "I'm having second thoughts about this guys..." Katara asserted, still not releasing her arms as her blue eyes nervously took in the sight of these tall stone walls.
"My stomach isn't!" Sokka flailed his arms out toward her in sudden protest. "Unless you can come up with something else for dinner; I say we walk right into those open gates and find us some food!"
"Ssh!" Aang held his finger to his mouth back at the two, before turning back to the gate. I really want to turn around! She followed Aang nervously over the bridge; right past two guards who lazily lounged against the back of the bridge's corner, gazing over the grassy plains below.
"If we ever see it, what'll you do when the war's over?" The one guard asked the other.
"Uh, hope someone starts another one? I mean, fighting's my life, you know?" He replied. Wow. Some people really have low morals. Katara eyed the back of the man's head as they slipped past the two quite easily.
Passing beneath the tall stone walls and through the open wooden gates, Katara stopped and widened her eyes. "Uh; now what?" A whole series of green-roofed buildings lined the edge of the circular walls. In front of them lay a large walkway with immense earth-coin shaped tiles stretching down the center, either side by a rail protecting from a sharp fall. Stairs to lower levels stood to their left and right, but directly ahead, at the end of this long pathway, a single large tower stood with a cascading staircase at its' base.
Aang pointed at a small group of guards standing together in front of the tower. "We could always ask those guys for directions."
Katara raised an eyebrow, staring at the back of Aang's head curiously. Does anything ever worry him? "Let's just try looking ourselves, Aang." She shut him off, turning for a larger building along the right wall.
As they crept down the stairs leading to the lower level to avoid the guards above, Sokka gasped and stopped in his tracks. "Hey guys–" Aang ran smack into Sokka, with Katara tripping into Aang as she attempted to stop in vain. Aah! Don't stop!
Sokka tumbled forward with a sudden shout, bouncing on the last few steps before falling on his tucus. Katara grabbed the rail before falling, wrapping her other arm around Aang's chest to keep him from following Sokka.
"Phew! Thanks Katara." Aang stated excitedly as Katara spotted what had startled Sokka in the first place. Six guards lifted their heads, green helmets tilting back as they eyed the three in surprise.
Uh oh. She released her hold on Aang, standing upright as she regained her balance. The guards lowered spears with curved tips to Sokka as he likewise climbed to his feet, rubbing his behind from the harsh impact on stone. "Stay back!" Sokka shouted, backing up cautiously toward the stairs.
Don't be an idiot again! Katara fumed at her brother as the guards encircled the base of the staircase. "A bunch of kids, here? I'm afraid this is as far as you go." A single guard stepped forward as he stated this.
Aang stepped down to the level floor and gave a soft bow. "Hey guys! Could you give us directions to the nearest market? We're starved!"
Agh! He did it, he asked for directions! She rolled her eyes sharply, before slapping her forehead. Sokka however pulled out his boomerang and held it ready to swing, ready to push back the spears reaching for him.
"Bad move boy." The male guard retorted at Sokka, leaping forward with an under handed swing. Sokka sidestepped and drove his boomerang down, cracking the shaft of the spear and knocking it from the guards' hands. Idiot!
Katara leapt forward to stop Sokka from fighting, but just as she passed Aang he was already assailed. One guard knocked Sokka's boomerang right out of his hand and onto the stone below, as another swiped his legs out from under him, sending him chin-first to the ground. "Ow!" Sokka began to rub his lower cheek. "Well now that we're acquainted..." He smiled sheepishly up at the victors.
In the following moment Katara rushed to his side, kneeling over him as her brown prison garb draped over his back. She laid her hands on his shoulders in protection, raising her eyes to plead to his green-clad armored assailants. "No! Please don't hurt my brother! We're just scared and hungry."
"My spear!" The one guard gasped, picking up his broken spear. Lifting it up, he eyed its shattered haft with an immense frown.
"You're coming with us." A female guard demanded. She stood out from the other guards by far, seeing as she was not dressed in their usual armor. An elegant tiara donned her forehead rather than a typical helmet. Her long, flowing black hair cascaded over her shoulders as her bright emerald eyes honed in on the three before her.
Aang approached and stepped between his friends and the guards. "We'll go with you; we're on the same side guys."
Katara dipped her face out of sight. "Sshh." She quietly hissed at Aang, afraid he was going to say he was the Avatar.
"Save it for General Fong." The woman replied as she lowered her spear to him. "Now up the stairs; all three of you, and lose that ridiculous hat." She added, pressing her attention to Aang's not so subtle disguise.
It wasn't long before the three were herded up the cascading stairway to the large tower they had seen before. Afterward they were led through an elegant, tall doorway and into an immense, stone hallway that led to a stepped stage beyond. A large golden table sat at its' center, maps of the world at either side, with an immense green banner in the shape of their common coin overhead. A man sat on a large chair just behind the table, his arms laid out upon the golden table's surface.
"General; we caught these children infiltrating our base." The male guard addressed, as the three were shoved to their knees on a small mat resting atop the green stone squares carved into the center of the room. Is this guy going to be as crazy as Bumi? Why are we always being put in these situations?! About now she realized there were Earth Kingdom guards stationed to their left and right, beside columns with glowing green stones for ambient light.
"Thank you Captain." The general replied; tilting his head down to enforce his suggestion he was looking down on them regardless that they were far away. I'm not even going to try to win him like Bumi; it isn't like it worked then, anyway... Katara pondered, remembering how she had tried to be so sweet to Bumi and it had gotten her nowhere. "Explain what you were doing sneaking into my base."
"Just dropping in for a meal." Aang answered instantly. Katara frowned tightly. I think I'm going to have to take over this.
"This location is used for strategic defense for war purposes, child. Don't play games with me because as I see it, you all are possible spies. So out with it, what are you doing here?" General Fong continued; his voice growing harsher with each sentence.
Katara quickly leaned to her right, slipping her hand down to rap Aang's leg gently, hinting not to say another word. She remembered Aang emphatically agreeing she stuck out much more than he did and decided to run with that. "Well, for the truth of it, I'm from the Southern Water Tribe." She heard Sokka gasp as he jerked his head towards her in surprise.
She felt the air of the room thicken with suspense. Certainly General Fong was confused what she was doing here. "I got captured by the Fire Nation, and ended up on their prison rig just south of here with enslaved earthbenders."
"I know of it; go on." The general brought his hands up and held them together in front of his chin, eyeing her scrupulously.
"While there; I inspired a revolt. It's only been a few hours since the prisoners broke free and headed back for their home to liberate it. I left them to go somewhere more like home to me; I'm going north...since the Southern Water Tribe has been hit so hard lately." Was that believable enough? She pondered; she'd not lied that much, but she still had lied.
The general leapt from his chair, shoving it back with a deafening echo as he stood upright. "You say a battle for liberation is about to begin at the mining village?"
Katara's eyes widened in shock; he seemed to leap at the chance instantly. "Y-yes! If it hasn't already."
"Excellent! Little girl; you've given me a great piece of information today." The general shifted his attention, commandingly gazing to the captain who had taken her in. "Sia, assemble the Eel Strikers. None can ride faster than your team's Eel Hounds; get to the town and assist in their liberation immediately. Captain Chu, your Ridge Riders are to remain here until I receive a report from my scouts by sundown. A prior report suggested a single Fire Navy ship was spotted just off the coast nearby. If the scouts don't report any further findings; you will be sent to support Captain Sia Re. Otherwise, if you claim any captives, you know where to take them."
"At once." Captain Sia clutched her right hand into a fist and held it against her chest, leaning into a short bow. Accepting this, she turned and made her way out to gather her crew.
"Aye sir." Captain Chu bowed in acceptance.
Katara smiled broadly. Did I just get them even more help? She couldn't help but to emotionally pat herself on the back over this turn of events. "Young lady..." The General placed his hands behind his back and paced around his table, taking each step extravagantly as he approached them. "What is your name?"
She lifted her blue eyes to meet his brown eyes in return. His beard stretched immensely down before his chest, his hair held neatly upright in a small crown with an Earth Kingdom coin engraving at its front. "Katara."
"On behalf of the Earth Kingdom, Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, I offer you my thanks. You and your friends may stay the night and share in a meal; on us. If you need anything just ask it, your quarters will be waiting for you when you are ready."
"Awesome!" Aang exclaimed as he leapt up from his kneel beside Katara.
"Anything?" Sokka grinned mischievously as he turned a curious gaze back to Captain Chu.
"What do you have in mind?" General Fong brought his arms before him, stroking his beard as he lifted a brown eyebrow in thought.
"Oh nothing; just a rematch with that man over there." Sokka nodded towards the Captain. You what? Katara frowned. Meathead.
General Fong laughed heartily at Sokka's bravado. "You may have your wish! So long as it is before my scouts return. First, go enjoy a meal."
"Thank you General Fong, sir." Katara climbed to her feet and gave a gracious bow.
Gathered around a circular wooden table Katara, Aang and Sokka readily ate a generous meal. "Wow, this is great!" Sokka stammered as he scarfed down another bite of pig-rooster.
"Sokka, are you really going to go through with that?" Katara point-blank questioned.
"Huh?" Sokka's eyes widened in confusion toward his sister as he held the leg of meat just in front of his mouth. "If by that, you mean pulling all the meat off of this bone, then yes."
Aang shuddered. "Yeah, I don't know how you can stand that."
Sokka lifted a brow as he prepared to defend his appetite. "I don't know how you can stand to eat weeds." Readily he sank his teeth into the meat again.
How easily they get sidetracked. Aang's finger rose as he began to voice a counter, but Katara interjected and cut him off. "No, I meant fighting that captain after we finish eating. What made you ask for something so stupid?"
"Stupid?!" Sokka swallowed a large piece of meat, nearly gagging on it as he dropped the leg to his plate. "I would have had him if he didn't have his friends help!"
"We're only here for food then we have to go again." Katara returned to her dinner, as she lowered her voice. "These people are being kind to us."
"She's right Sokka." Aang agreed, turning his gray eyes to the young warrior. "Maybe if you ask nicely they'll train you instead of fight you."
Sokka smirked as he picked up the bone from his plate, waving it emphatically in front of him. "Train me? After I'm through with them; I'll have taught them, Sokka style." He bit off the last portion of meat, and tossed the bone to the plate.
"Sokka..." She eyed him as he rose from his seat, smoothing his clothing out with both hands.
"Just watch, the next time you see me, these recruits will be thanking me for showing them a true warrior." He provided a toothy grin, tugging his shirt out with both hands boastfully.
He's ridiculous. A simple frown and creased brow overcame her as Sokka turned and headed out the door of the mess hall. "I hope he doesn't get himself hurt."
"He always does." Aang joked as he finished some cheese. "But don't worry, he'll keep bouncing back!"
She stood and pulled off the brown garb she had been wearing for some time now, returning to her blue Water Tribe outfit. "I guess I'm done with this now." She added, balling it up into a heap before setting it down on the table in front of her.
"You seem to be getting quite popular." Aang smiled kindly to her. However after this, he began to chuckle. "Just don't let it go to your head."
She caught the joke and rolled her eyes, dropping back to her seat. "Hey, you really did."
Aang laughed at her frustration, though she didn't seem to share in his humor entirely. His laughter died down, seeing her somber expression. "Uh..." Calming himself, he quieted his voice and questioned her clearly. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to upset you."
"No, it isn't that." Katara shut her eyes, pivoting away from him as she turned for the doorway. "I'm just still upset; it's not your fault."
He dipped his chin, lowering his eyes to her bare neck. "I'm sorry you lost your necklace."
She didn't respond. Instead, she reactively reached for her neck, her forefinger touching gently where her carved stone would normally lie. Yeah...my necklace. A single sigh escaped her lips as her expression grew sullen.
"But you really made a lot of people happy!" He attempted to cheer her mood, smiling broadly to her in retaliation to her dim appearance. "Many people finally got to go home because of you. So, at least something good came of it."
This didn't help. I guess I never told you. Narrowing her eyes, she dropped a hand to the table and slid back her empty plate, staring wistfully at nothing in particular. "Yes; that was good."
Aang sensed her disagreement with her own words and bunched up his brows in return. "Katara, what's wrong? There's something else, isn't there."
"That necklace was very important to me." She muttered quietly.
"I can tell." He agreed softly.
Glancing up to meet his apologetic gaze, she gave him only a partial smile at his concern. "It belonged to my mother. She gave it to me." Her blue eyes danced with the pain of its loss once again. "It was the only thing I had left of her..."
"Oh." Aang's expression changed to that of shared grief. "I'm sorry Katara."
"Like you said, many people's lives changed for the better." Releasing a soft breath, she allowed herself to smile at the thought. "But it does hurt."
"I know." Aang commented, sitting back in his chair as he turned to gaze out the open door.
Oh right, he does know... "Aang, I don't understand something." She stated idly, drawing his attention back to her. "You're always so happy; don't you feel any pain over losing your parents?" The response that he gave her, she couldn't make sense of. His expression spoke of pain, confusion, and grief. "I'm sorry Aang; it must hurt too much to think about."
"Well, actually... I never thought about that. I don't know who my parents are." After a brief pause, he bit his lip as his brow remained knotted. "...were."
"You didn't know?" She repeated in surprise.
"No, they never told me." He again paused, contemplating something deep. "If I had to choose someone like that, Monk Gyatso meant the world to me."
And you found his skeleton...I'm sorry I brought this up. "That must have been so hard for you..." Her eyes softened, forgetting momentarily she had been talking about her necklace.
Aang didn't answer; instead he turned his head away from her. His gaze fell, downcast, toward the doorway once again.
"How do you stop this thing?!" Sokka's cry echoed into the dinner room.
Oh great, now what? She glanced for the entrance, just as Sokka came barreling in on a tall Ostrich-Horse. What in all the Spirit World is he doing?!
"Down, stay, sit, stop, heeelp!" Sokka threw his arms around the neck of the bewildered beast as it kicked over a table.
"Get that thing out of here!" The host of the establishment shouted, ducking behind his counter.
"Aah!" Help! Katara leapt from her chair and pressed her back against the wall, lifting her hands to guard her face from the incoming table and debris, turning her head away. Aang leapt from his chair and slammed his fists together, sending up a small air sphere to thrust the table and debris away from plowing through him and Katara.
A loud slam echoed as another table buckled against the beasts' weight. "Aaah!" Sokka went flying off of the creature, flipping backwards as he crashed through a window's wooden shutters with a loud crack.
"Sokka!" Katara leapt past Aang, but stopped as guards piled into the building, hindering her way.
"Ahahaha!" A guard laughed loudly, peering out the window to Sokka. Katara shoved her way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of him, lying on his back on a table just outside the window. "Yeah, thanks for the lesson boy. It was truly our pleasure to meet a real warrior!" At this the room filled with laughter, before they guided the Ostrich-Horse out by its' reigns.
"Wha- Hey?! Who's going to pay for this?" Two men stood by the table Sokka had landed on, food and drinks spilled all over the ground.
"General Fong?" Sokka smiled curiously.
Aang leaned out the window beside Katara. "Yeah! He did say we didn't have to worry about anything. It was all on him."
"I don't think this is what he meant." Katara whispered to Aang, glancing behind them to the disarray that lay all around her.
"And what about my hall? These tables are ruined! And my dishes...!" The host rounded the counter, waving his finger toward Aang and Katara as he approached. "You'd best pay for these damages!"
"Yeah...uh, I'm so sorry for my brother!" Katara quickly dug out a meager portion of Water Tribe money; the last left that her grandmother had gave them. "Here you go sir!"
"You call this payment?!" The host glared harshly to her as Aang rubbed the back of his head, chuckling nervously under his breath. "Just get out of here, and don't come back."
"I'm sorry for the trouble! See you next time!" Next time? Aang! Aang added as he quickly scurried out the doorway, Katara dashing out behind him.
"What were you doing on that thing?!" Katara pressed her palms to her hips, glowering at her brother as she intently questioned him.
"Uh...challenging him?" Sokka sheepishly answered, backing away from his sister's fury.
"Seriously, as if you had any idea how to ride one of those! What were you thinking?" She fumed, continuing her verbal assault.
"When I went to duel him, he said a proper duel was done on the back of an Ostrich-Horse. Of course I accepted his challenge!" Sokka pressed against the wall beside a window-slit of their stone circular bedroom.
"Awesome; they ride Ostrich-Horses? I want to try!" Aang grinned from his green mattress, which lay recessed in the back of their rectangular bedroom; two others sat perpendicular against either adjacent wall with luxurious green privacy curtains hanging before all three them.
"Not tonight, we have to rest for tomorrow." Katara shot down Aang's wish to ride another creature, before returning her attention to Sokka. "And you bought that? He's captain of the Ridge Riders – doesn't that name sound like he's at the advantage to you?" Honestly, he'd walk right off a broken bridge if there wasn't a sign saying not to. After a moment of taking this thought, she retorted to herself. No, he'd probably still do it.
"Hey, I can take a warrior anytime, anywhere!" Sokka yelled, standing upright as he challenged his sisters' harsh words. "I can't help he trained the bird to run away with me. He cheated!"
"Ugh!" She spun away from him, jerking her hands off her hips and swinging them behind her in frustration. Following this, she leaned forward and pressed against a nearby window-slit. All was quiet for a moment, until she noticed the Ridge Riders gathered outside the main tower, the last glimpse of light from the setting sun shining down on the grounds below.
"Rally up, Riders!" Captain Chu began. "The scout report is in; there is a Fire Nation ship that has been spotted just north of here off the coast. It's our mission to track it down and ensure they don't attempt to set down on our territory. We will not allow the Fire Nation to infiltrate our homeland!" Chu shouted aloud, raising an arm high above his green helmed head with a chorus of cheers from his comrades.
Sokka really thought he was better than trained combat experts. He's not even had formal training. She sighed, leaning on the windowsill. I just don't want to see you get hurt Sokka...
Sokka didn't say anything further, already having the last word in their argument. He simply knocked back a curtain and climbed into the recessed bed beside him. Glancing back to her brother, he reached out and flipped the curtain back behind him, shutting her out. Hurt by this, her cold stare softened, frowning after him. I'm sorry brother. She considered, returning her gaze out the window to the moon above, darkness fighting off the remnant of lingering sunlight.
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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