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|Fire and Ice|
Book 1: Deceit
October 15, 2010
Early in the morning
Liv sighed impatiently, pounding on the door of Kya's house for what must have been the millionth time in the few minutes that she had been standing there. Kya had agreed to meet her in the courtyard over an hour ago for a training session, and she had waited long enough before stomping off to see what was taking her friend so long. She hated to admit it, but Liv was starting to get a little worried. It was not like Kya to be so late to anything.
The door swung open suddenly, and Liv turned around to glare expectantly at the person standing in the threshold. It was not Kya who had come to meet her, however. Gyatso stared blankly into her steaming amber eyes for a long moment. Then, his mouth stretched in an obnoxious yawn and he attempted in vain to smooth down his ruffled brown hair.
"Whaddya want?" he asked sleepily, eyeing the early morning sun distastefully.
"Why didn't Kya come meet me at the training field!?" Liv demanded without preamble. "I've been waiting around for forever!"
"Mmm..." Gyatso mumbled incoherently. "I dunno, man... She's probably sleepin' in."
Liv had just opened her mouth to tell him what an inarticulate imbecile he was being when Kya suddenly appeared in the doorway behind her brother. The words died on Liv's tongue as she eyed her friend's disheveled state. Kya's hair was more messy than usual, and there were dark circles under her eyes. It looked as though she had tossed and turned through a long, sleepless night. That would be unlike her as well.
"I wasn't asleep!" Kya snapped angrily. "I was just getting ready. Now would you get out of my way?"
With that, she stormed off in the direction of the training field. Liv watched her go, her mouth hanging open in shock. In all the years that she had known Kya, she had never seen her in such a foul mood. Ignoring Gyatso mumbling something about stupid little sisters, she took off after her friend.
It did not take Liv long to catch up with Kya, but she wished that she had stalled long enough to think of something to say. It was obvious that Kya was in an abnormally bad mood, which meant that something must have happened. Liv was not exactly good at bringing things up delicately, though...
"So," she began casually, "when you didn't show this morning, I figured that you'd slept in. But, you know, you really don't look like you slept at all..."
She stopped and waited for a response, but Kya continued to walk at the same quick pace with her head down and her eyes hidden from view. Liv sighed. Clearly, she would have to be a bit more direct.
"Alright, what's wrong?" she demanded.
Kya glanced up at her, eyes strangely empty, and appeared to contemplate the question for a moment. Then she looked down again. When she spoke, her voice was quiet and uncertain.
"Nothing's wrong. I just don't feel entirely like myself. That's all."
Liv opened her mouth to ask what she meant by that, but she did not have the chance to voice her thoughts. They had arrived at the training courtyard, and Kya immediately prepared to take her fighting stance.
As she watched her friend taking her position, Liv wondered if sparring was a good idea just now. Kya seemed to be truly upset by whatever was going on in her life, and it was unlike her to keep something so important to herself.
She was just about to suggest that they skip the sparring and do something different for training, such as breathing exercises, when a jagged icicle whizzed just inches past her head.
Liv barely had time to register what had just happened when another icicle flew past her, and then another. The attack was suddenly an endless volley, and Liv raised a silvery wall of fire in an attempt to protect herself from the wild onslaught. The icicles melted as they made impact with her flames, but her victory was short-lived.
Just as Liv was about to lower the wall and catch her breath, a jet of water burst through her powerful shield and slammed against her chest. Liv landed hard on the ground, the breath knocked from her lungs. She raised her head to tell Kya off for being so reckless, but the stream of water did not stop its assault. It wrapped around her body like a rat-viper, blocking her airways.
Unable to breathe or talk, Liv stared frantically at Kya, trying to communicate that she needed to stop. Kya did not seem to notice her desperate struggles, however. Her dappled blue eyes were blank, and she appeared to be totally focused on her waterbending.
Liv's vision began to go blurry and her head felt as though it was spinning on her neck. The jet of water tightened its grip, and Liv struggled to force back her panic. In one final effort to break free, she superheated her body, causing the water to sizzle and steam as it made contact with her skin.
Her bonds weakened, Liv broke out of the watery prison and collapsed to her knees, gasping for air. She would never have admitted it aloud, but she had been frightened for her life for a moment there. Would Kya have actually killed her?!?
Getting shakily to her feet, she glared in the direction of the waterbender, her amber eyes shining with fury and disbelief.
"Are you stupid!?" she demanded. "What the hell were you thinking!? You could have killed me just now! Next time you make a stupid move like that, at least give me a little warning!"
"What do you know!?" Kya shouted back, shocking Liv into silence. "In real life, things come at you without warning. You should just stop whining and get used to it!"
She turned to walk away, but Liv was not through with her yet. She stepped in front of Kya, blocking off her escape route.
"Okay, obviously, something's wrong with you," she insisted angrily. "What is it?"
"Oh, like you don't know," Kya shot back. "And if you don't, why don't you go ask your father!?"
Saying this, she shoved past Liv and sprinted away. The firebender stood and watched her go with wide eyes. This was unlike anything that had ever happened between them before. What was she supposed to do?
Did this mean that they weren't friends anymore?
Ten minutes later
Kya skidded to a halt, panting from exhaustion and uncontrollable anger. How could Liv – Liv, who was supposed to be her best friend – just stand there and deny that she knew what Kya was so furious about? How could she not know? She was just a liar – just as guilty as Katara and Zuko.
Drawing in a deep breath to calm herself, Kya paused in her thoughts and glanced around to see where her subconscious had taken her. A moment later, she blinked in surprise. Instinct had led her to a small, grassy palace courtyard, with a small pond that was home to a family of turtle-ducks and a single tree that grew just beside the water. When she was a little girl, she had often come here to play. Even now that she was older, she still loved this place, and she sometimes came simply to sit by the water and enjoy the only truly tranquil location in the Palace City.
The worst of her fury was already beginning to ebb away, and Kya was suddenly aware of how tired she was from her long run and the restless night. Without the blinding anger clouding her senses, she sat down at the base of the tree. She remembered fondly that she and Liv used to take turns climbing it when their parents were not looking...
Her thoughts suddenly slammed into a wall of guilt. Kya had known, deep down, that Liv could never have been aware of their shared lineage, but she had needed a scapegoat on whom to project her anger. If it weren't for Liv's quick thinking and resourcefulness, she realized with a pang, the firebender could easily have died during that training session.
Kya was only beginning to recognize the enormity of what had just happened when the sound of footsteps upon the soft grass caught her attention. She looked up to see Liv standing in front of her, a slight frown on her lips.
Immediately, Kya leapt to her feet, trying to find the words that would make Liv understand how terribly sorry she was. However, Liv beat her to it.
"I had a feeling I'd find you here," she remarked. "Never quite understood what drew you to this place. It's too quiet."
Kya looked at her for a second that seemed to last hours, then lowered her head.
"Sometimes," she replied tentatively, "it's nice to have just one place in your life that never changes, no matter what happens."
Liv shrugged, and the two lapsed into uncomfortable silence. Kya watched Liv's face for any sign of anger, worried by the fact that she found none. Her friend's lack of fury only served to make her feel worse, and she knew that she had to set this right at once.
"I'm so sorry, Liv!" she burst out. "It's just... I don't know... I wasn't thinking! If I had been, I would never, never had done something so dangerous, especially not without warning you first. I just really haven't been myself."
"What does that mean, though?" Liv asked. "What happened that you would say something like that?"
Kya held her breath. Would it be right for her to tell Liv that they shared the same father? Wouldn't it be better for Zuko to explain what had happened to his daughter?
'Then again, I'm his daughter too, and he never took the time to explain it to me,' she thought bitterly. Besides, there's no way she'll be satisfied unless I tell her what's bothering me. Liv deserves to know... My sister deserves to know.
"You might wanna sit down," she murmured. "This is big."
Liv sat down beside her, her expression wary. Closing her eyes, Kya slowly began to relate everything that she had learned during the previous night. She purposely left out the part about her bizarre dreams, so as not to cause unnecessary worry, but it did not seem to make much of a difference. The news that she had was enough to freak anyone out.
"...so that's what it is," Kya finished uncertainly. "I don't know why. I don't even really know how... Well, I do, but that's beside the point. I'm just really sorry that I directed my anger at you. I know that you wouldn't have kept something like that from me."
Liv shook her head in speechless amazement, clearly unable to find words that expressed what was passing through her mind. Kya did not blame her. In the course of a few minutes, they had gone from being in the midst of an enormous argument to being half-sisters. You couldn't just shake off something like that.
"I..." Kya said, her voice faltering. "I'm sorry if you hate me for it. I understand if you wish I hadn't happened."
"Don't insult me," Liv said haughtily. "I'm not an idiot, you know. I'm not blaming you for something you had no control over."
Then, her eyes softened, and she added, "I wouldn't push away my sister over something so petty."
Kya gazed at her for a long time, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. Liv flashed her a tiny smile, and Kya managed a weak grin in response.
"Thanks," she whispered, sniffling. "That means a lot to me, Liv."
"Well, what are friends for?" Liv replied.
They remained there for some time in comfortable silence. Kya raised a hand to her face and brushed away her tears, her mind racing. She could not express her happiness at the fact that Liv did not hate her, but she could not help but feel upset nonetheless. Last night, the world as she knew it had dissolved into a tangled web of lies and deceit. What was she supposed to think now?
There was no answer for that, Kya knew. Rather than attempting to create one, she watched the sun climb higher into the sky, repeating the same pattern that it had followed for eons. If only life could share that same regularity.
- The events in this chapter were planned so early in development that this was actually the first chapter we named.
For the collective works of the author, go here.