|By Dragon of The West||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Dragon of The West||Drama||PG||Positive||None|
November 16, 2010
Who can convince the caged bird that it will never fly? Who can appease the ghost's desire to be flesh and blood once again? For they are like ghosts, those who choose this path; they are forced to live amidst the shadows, loved by none, and feared by all. No hope for family, love, or peace - just the endless toil of their sinister labor. Kill or be killed. They live by the sword - if it can be called living - or die by it.
Yet, she had this dream. It was persistent and vivid and cruel. She hated this dream. You see, it once was a daydream, a fantasy - a happy place she could escape to when the shackles of her dreadful existence weighed her down. Now it was the perennial reminder of things that would never be.
Her house was a small wooden cabin, on the meadow. It was quaint and rustic, but the view was beautiful and the surroundings were peaceful and serene. Her husband was a handsome man, with long, ebony hair and warm, green eyes. He was a powerful bender, but he was really not a violent man. Also, he was not wealthy, but he was honest and hardworking, so their every need was met. Together they'd had a son: a gorgeous boy who had her hair and her skin, and had been blessed with his father's eyes. They had a home, each other, and love. They were happy.
She woke up from her dream with a frown, desperately needing a drink. She scoured the pirates' pantry and finally found some dark rum. It was not vodka, but it was good enough to wash down the lump in her throat. She really hated him for dying, since a part of her was now dead too...
The glaring midday sun hurt her eyes when she came out on deck. She covered her eyes with the bottle as she made for the anchor. She had been at sea three days now. Her daily routine consisted of bending the ship through the water for half the day and half the night. By then she would be pretty much exhausted, so she would drop anchor, eat something and go to bed. Next day she, would wake up, lift the anchor and resume course. It was tough work, but she was a big girl – besides, no point in letting the ship go astray while she slept.
Each day the air was little bit colder, crisper, and yes, sweeter. She felt herself returning to her natural habitat and she was definitely enjoying it. Even if the Avatar and his wife were not there, the boost alone would be worth the trip.
Drag The Waters
Tengu would have to border the coast, near Omashu, before starting to head down through the Patolas. He flew all night and day from Taku, following the coastline, using the sea breeze to his advantage. It was night when he reached the Merchant's Pier. He landed incognito and began to investigate whether Lian and her party had been through there already. He found a man selling noodles on a street stand, so he decided he would try to kill two birds with one stone.
"How much for a hot bowl?"
"Five copper pieces, my friend."
Tengu paid for the bowl and started eating right away. The hot broth really hit the spot, especially after having had to deal with all of that cold wind on the glider. He almost allowed himself a delighted hum when complimenting the humble chef:
"This is good stuff!"
"Good spot, too – got a great view of the whole pier. Sure nothing much ever gets by you."
The noodle vendor was a shrewd man; "Not much at all... Some are easier to remember than others, know what I mean?"
"Maybe a small party led by a blond waterbender, going south..."
The vendor immediately made a face. "I know who you mean. You sure you want to catch up with those folks?"
"They're supposed to visit my family." Tengu discreetly laid two gold pieces on the counter.
The man eyed the coins, and then put them in his pocket. After a long pause, he said, "Well, they came here around noon and started asking for passage in any ship going South, but everyone turned them down. You see: most folks around these parts know trouble when they see it."
"So they left?"
"I can't remember that well..."
Tengu fed the man two more gold pieces. "Do you have any tea?"
The vendor was starting to become nervous, but he played along and poured Tengu a hot cup of ginseng tea.
"I didn't tell you this, but they stowed away on a Pirate Ship. It looked like there would be some trouble out on open sea..."
"Too kind, sir. Thanks for everything."
"My pleasure, sir."
Tengu disappeared into the crowd and into a lonely back alley. Almost immediately, a black shadow sped into the night sky, headed south.
Aang and Katara were just finishing decorating the baby's room (Moon Peach had won the color contest). They were admiring their handiwork and enjoying some simple conversation when the soldier knocked on the door.
"Avatar Aang, you must forgive us sir, but it's extremely urgent that you come with us right away."
"What is it Aang?"
"I don't know honey... What seems to be the problem?"
"There was a breach at the city wall. The intruder – he's in bad shape and keeps saying he must talk to you."
"Hang on, I'll be there in a minute. Honey, stay here, okay?"
"I don't know Aang, this could be trouble..."
"All the more reason for you to stay here, okay?" He turned to face the soldiers. "Are Chief Sokka and The Mayor aware?"
"They're waiting for you, Sir."
Days were already shorter because of winter, so even though it was not quite yet four in the afternoon, shadows were already long and deep in the icy city. Aang and the soldiers hurried across the main streets, with most folks already retiring for the day. In about 10 minutes, they had arrived at the new Council Building, with Sokka and Hakoda waiting at the entrance.
"Hello Aang. This way –he's being detained in the infirmary." Hakoda motioned inside the building.
"Wait. I thought this was a dangerous intruder." Aang questioned.
"Well – to be honest..." Sokka began explaining "he did invade the perimeter, but I think it might have more of a crash landing than an actual attack. In fact, I have healers standing by, if he can be identified as friendly."
"Crash-landing? Wait – there's something you're not telling me..."
"He had a glider." Hakoda replied.
During their brief exchange, the leaders had gone through a series of corridors that were headed into the heart of the building. Hakoda led the way to a brightly lit room with a cabinet for medicines and three small cots. On the one at the further end, lay Tengu, collapsed from exhaustion. He was filled with cuts and bruises from his crash landing against the city's outer wall and was, in his semi-conscious state, trying to brush off the two healers that were working on his wounds. The two women had decided that they would no longer heed the soldiers, standing by and doing nothing while the poor man bled to death. The patient, however, managed to make the task almost impossible.
"Heaven bless me! Tengu! What are you doing here?"
Between a blurry dance of lights and shadows, the airbender could make out the shape and sound of The Principal Elder. He conveyed his message as lucidly and as urgently as his body would allow for it:
"She's coming Master – they're on their way..."
"Who's coming Tengu? Who's on its way?"
"Black...Lotus...Lian – the waterbender...passed her at the Patolas."
"Are you sure about that?" Aang asked insistently.
"Ursa warned me...chased from Taku...confirmed...Pier..." Tengu's delivery became increasingly incoherent as his last bit of strength exited his body.
"Tengu, you need to calm down, let these ladies heal you..."
"No time...will be here...tonight..."
"I take it you know him." Sokka asked, wearing a puzzled look on his face.
"He's my lead Security Officer at the Northern Air Temple." Aang replied while taking a worried look at Tengu's worsening state.
"He kinda left his post, didn't he?" Sokka's sarcastic tone let Aang know that he recognized the name from conversations with his sister. Aang was annoyed.
"I'm sure the reasons can be addressed later. In the meantime, if Lian is really on her way, we need to be ready for her."
"Who's this Lian?" asked Hakoda.
"A Black Lotus assassin. Northern waterbender – real fast, real vicious, and seems to have a thing for Katara." Sokka immediately noted.
"A thing?" Hakoda was curious.
"Their encounters have always been real close to a draw – it's almost as if they were evenly matched. I'm sure every time she goes for Katara, she's trying to prove herself." Aang noted.
"Avatar Aang, we need your officer to hold still." One of the healers complained.
"Tengu, please, we are already working on securing the perimeter! Now let the healers work, you're of no use to anyone in this shape!" Aang pleaded with his friend, who finally surrendered to his caretakers.
The Great Southern Trendkill
Two hours later, everyone was at the ready, holding their posts. Sokka had relocated most of the citizens living in the outer perimeter in an improvised bunker close to the rear wall. He had seen the kind of damage that a fight with the Black Lotus could do to a town, so he was looking to minimize collateral damage as much as possible.
He also recalled all of the patrolling boats and his scouts. Tengu had described a large sail ship, so it would be grand entrance. Sokka laid everything out in his mind so it would be a single line of defense. He knew Lian to be an elite Black Lotus asset, so he was not going to sacrifice any soldiers out there by posting them in a vulnerable position. He would pull back nice and tight and let her drop in out in the open. Then she would be exposed and they would have their best chance.
The night was particularly chilly, but there was almost no wind. There was a light fog forming out in the harbor, but visibility was still good. As the night progressed, ever so slowly, so did the fog thicken. Then, loud creak was heard from within and a large ship emerged from the fog, going dangerously fast.
"It's going to crash right into us!" Hakoda observed.
"Not if we can break its momentum..." Sokka retorted. "Freeze it!" The loud command reached the scant waterbender forces, who immediately complied.
With a loud creak and then a deep thud, the boat finally came to a halt. A good five minutes went by and nothing seemed to stir aboard the vessel, so Sokka decided to take the offense:
"Kenta and Makko, you two come with me. We're going onboard and checking this out. Dad, you're on point."
Hakoda nodded as his son and his personal guards went to inspect the boat.
"This ship is empty, Chief," Kenta remarked moving about the rear deck.
Under the moonlight, Makko finally made out the thin wire crossing the bridge, but it was too late. He only had time to instinctively cover his Chief. The explosion killed Kenta, leaving Sokka and Makko injured.
Waterbenders immediately moved in, concentrating in setting off the flames which threatened to consume the vessel. Healers were dragging off the Chief and his guard to grant them emergency attention. Meanwhile, Tengu noticed the fog had surrounded them. He caught on to what was going on, and was about the airbend the fog away, when a large block of ice flew out and knocked him out cold. With blinding speed, three more ice blocks emerged from the fog, knocking out the waterbenders.
Aang was about to airbend the fog away, but a water whip shot out of the fog and grabbed him by the neck. By the time he had gathered himself to react, it was too late: Lian had let go of him, but had made a small incision and was bending his blood out through the cut. He desperately tried to stop the blood, but was unaccustomed to the liquid's viscosity. He then tried to heal himself but was already too weak. The worst part was discovering that Hakoda was going through exactly the same procedure...
"Katara..." Lian taunted in sing-song "come out and plaaay!"
Katara could not help herself anymore and looked out the window – she squealed in horror as she saw Lian suspend her father's blood in a sphere over her right hand and Aang's in a similar fashion on the left. Their bodies lay almost lifeless on the snow at her sides.
"Wow, I think I'm just about done here. I thought you would care more about your squeeze and your old man."
"Stop it!" Katara yelled from her hut. The rest of the village stayed put, as Sokka had ordered, hoping to avoid unnecessary deaths.
"Not unless you give me what I want – I want a rematch!"
Katara stormed out of the hut, wearing her blue parka. "If we fight, then it's between you and me – leave them."
"Deal." Lian quickly bent Aang and Hakoda's blood back into their bodies and sealed their cuts.
"You ready princess? Cuz here I COME!"
In a flash, Lian packed the snow behind her into a block of ice, roughly twice her size, and brought it down in a hammer like fashion on Katara. Just as the block would have hit, Katara melted the ice into water, and with a swift, circular motion, sent it back at Lian as a highly compressed jet. The stream hit Lian square in her torso and sent her hurling towards the shore. Wasting no time, Katara encased Lian in ice, lifted her and slammed the block into the ground. The ice mass shattered, and Lian emerged from the pieces dazed and confused.
Katara then froze Lian's feet to the ground and started sending ice blades at Lian. The first blade grazed Lian's right arm and the sting reawakened her senses. Lian stopped the next three blades midair and melted them back into water, dropping them to the ground. Lian then melted the ice around her feet, took a stance and bent the snow surrounding her into a cloud of small icicles. Katara then took a stance that resembled an earthbending move and brought up a wall of ice in front of her, all of the tiny icicles shattered on impact.
"Oh me, oh my! Learnt us some tricks from the blind bitch, haven't we?" Lian remarked.
"More than just one." Katara said, raising three blocks of ice from the snow and sending them hurling towards Lian.
Lian quickly realized that she was at a disadvantage, and that waterbending alone would not give her the edge she needed. She melted the oncoming ice blocks and manipulated them into water whips. She lashed two of the unconscious waterbenders, cutting their skins open. She then dropped the water whips and started draining their blood to create new whips. Katara stopped her attack out of plain disgust. Her state wasn't helping her tonight...
That brief hesitation cost Katara her advantage. Lian melted the snow beneath Katara and froze her feet in ice. She then began to ferociously lash at Katara with her blood whips, while all Katara could do was remain defensive.
Any third person observer with one iota of judgment could tell that Lian did not care about being efficient or effective. She was in frenzy, getting revenge, venting her anger at what she thought had become the bane of her existence. She was getting payback for Nero, Mavado, Gao, Lu Ming, and all of her suffering over and by them. Hit after hit, lash after lash, Katara's state worsened. Her parka was now torn to pieces. Her arms, which had been reduced to cover for her head, were filled with cuts and bruises. In the end, Lian melted the ice around Katara's feet, allowing her to finally collapse onto the snowy ground.
Lian was ecstatic. She laughed maniacally, as she jumped and celebrated her victory. She was goddess, moon and sky – the vast expanse of black and white around her could not contain her. She was intoxicated with her own power. Her blood sped through her veins, as her heart pumped wildly. She was really going to do it – she was really going to end the Mighty Katara of the Southern Water Tribe once and for all. She was getting ready to deliver the final blow when she saw her foe slowly pick herself up from the snow. Her fur coat torn to pieces, her arms bleeding, her whole body shaking with cold, and her eyes filled with angry tears, she was up again.
Lian let out an angry roar as she summoned the surrounding snow into a huge cloud of icicles, ready to stab Katara into oblivion – and then, she hesitated...
Katara looked up at the moon, her face contorted by an angry, uncontrollable sobbing. She then looked down at her womb, previously concealed by her parka. She doubled over and cupped her arms gently around it. She then looked back up at Lian, whose face could not hide the surprise. Close to a thousand icicles were indefinitely suspended in mid-air surrounding the expecting mother. None of them would move. Lian would not move. Something inside her had broken. Katara would never know, but Lian was not there anymore: she was at her tiny cottage in the meadow, singing to her boy with blond hair and green eyes.
By Demons Be Driven
At first, it was surprise. Immediately after, it was guilt and shame. Then it was something she had never felt before. An unseen force froze her limbs, as every single fiber of her body screamed out in pain. The sheer force of the nervous signal yanked her conscious self swiftly back into her physical body. There she saw Katara doing a move she had never seen before. Her right arm was outstretched, with her thumb inside the palm, as if signaling "four". Her left arm was flexed, leaving her wrist at the height of the hip. Katara then slowly extended both arms. Lian screeched in pain like a wounded animal. She felt her face go red, her neck and ears got warm and she became dizzy. Blood began dripping from her nose.
In a swift move, Katara pulled in both arms and Lian flew through the air towards her. Lian nearly passed out, as she felt if she had just been hoisted by her innards. Katara then encased Lian in a block of ice, almost sending her into shock. Katara melted the water above Lian's shoulders and splashed some water in her face to keep her from going unconscious.
"I swore I would never do this again, but this is not about me anymore!" Katara sobbed as she screamed at Lian. "I'm willing to beg for my father's life, and I'm willing to fight for the man I love, but if you ever come near my baby again – for my baby I'm willing to kill!"
Katara bent some of the surface snow into a long, thin icicle which she suspended midair, its tip grazing Lian's neck. She raised the icicle further into the air, preparing to let gravity help her ultimate move. Her face clenched in a dark scowl, she let out a savage scream as she pushed down, but the icicle melted at the very last moment. Katara looked down sharply at Lian, who remained staring blankly into the sky. She quickly re-made the icicle, only to have it melt again in exactly the same way.
Looking to her right, Katara finally noticed Aang, who was holding his hand forward.
"Aang, what are you doing?" Katara barked.
"What am I doing? What are you doing? You're about to kill her without regard!"
"I'm defending myself and I'm protecting my baby..." Katara says darkly, her voice trailing off as she prepares another icicle. Aang melts it again and Aang slowly paces closer as Katara lets out an angry curse. Lian was in such a state of shock that she didn't understand a single word that was being said or what was going on.
"Katara, this is not a defensive action anymore: this is an execution! I mean look at her!" Aang motioned towards the barely conscious body of Lian, melting the encasing around her.
"What are you doing letting her go? How can you let any of them go? They'll just keep coming back! They always do!"
"Shouldn't everyone be given the chance? Do you ever think about what happened with Tengu?"
"Maybe you feel comfortable around killers – not me. I want to be safe. I want our baby to be safe! You don't know what it's like to be responsible for another life!"
"I do understand Katara! I'm responsible for the whole world!"
"Not the way I do. It's different." Katara said her voice colder than the tundra around her.
"Katara, the baby is not just yours: this is our child. I would do anything to make him safe, but..." the Avatar is cut off by his wife as a chilling breeze blew.
"But how bad do you want it, Aang? I for one am willing to do anything to give my child a life of peace!"
Aang was about to speak, when Katara started shaking her head, tears streaming down her face:
"You don't love me anymore than you love these murderers, do you?"
"I love you more. That's why I won't let you do something you will regret the way I have! I don't you want to have to bear that burden."
Katara's face was no longer that of a scorned, angry wife, but more like that of a pleading child.
"So you'd prefer me to have this child in danger by letting them live? By letting her live?"
"No," the Avatar replies, being true to his nature and going on the defensive. "I would have you both try and make the world better for everyone."
"What if you can't do it, Aang? People like her don't change!"
Aang sighs, trying to gather the wisdom of his long lost people. "I've said it before Katara. Everyone is capable of great good and great evil. First, you need to give them a chance! Give her a chance!"
"Lian's had her chance! Nero bought her a chance. And now she's come back to kill me and you! She's nothing but a cold blooded killer!"
"Just like Yon Rha! You didn't kill him when you had the chance."
"That was different."
"Katara, how is this different?"
"I wasn't strong enough to do anything then. I didn't have anyone to fight for then. That was then, and this is now!"
"Katara, if we know anything, it's that the Black Lotus is unrelenting. If you kill one of them, they'll send more!"
"Then they will come to us," Katara mumbles, glaring at Aang. "I'll fight them all if I have to!"
"You're the one who just said that you want our child to have peace! Now you're going to take on the entire Black Lotus on? You're not making any sense! I'm trying to give you time to relax! Trying to fight a war is too stressful for you right now! I'm trying to keep you safe!"
"Look how well it's worked!" Katara screams, jabbing a finger in Lian's direction. The force of her yell tore through the dark sky like a knife.
Aang stared for a moment at Lian. She had finally lost all trace of consciousness, and lay motionless in the ground. He looked at the burning ship, the waterbending women trying to heal Sokka and Makko. He looked at the dead warriors' families, grieving their fallen. Finally, he saw Tengu and Hakoda staring silently at the ongoing argument, both too careful to intervene. Aang's plans had failed. His plan to avoid the war, his plan to protect his wife from it... Even his ambush for Lian had failed miserably. He gathered his senses and tried to make one last plea for Lian's life.
"Katara: I need you to trust me. I'm trying to make this world into somewhere our child can live. Somewhere we can make a life for ourselves. Think of your parents: your father tried to keep you guys safe. Your mother sacrificed everything for you! You would become the very same thing they were trying to save you from if you killed Lian just like that."
Hakoda intervened for the first time: "He's right, Katara."
"I- I-" Aang knew that Katara was finally on the downward slope of her argument, and decided he would try to finally win the fight.
"If your mother were here, she wouldn't let you kill Lian. I'm sure she wouldn't even want you killing Yon Rha. She would want you to try and forgive them."
Aang had miscalculated his advantage. Instead of appeasing his wife, his words unleashed her fury. He would have probably dropped the argument altogether if he had known what he was in for.
"You don't know what my mother would have wanted! I'll never forgive the man that took her from me and I'll never forgive this bitch who tried to kill me and my baby! If you want to stand by and do nothing, go ahead! I won't."
"It's easy to do nothing, but it's hard to forgive," Aang replied cooly, exhaling as he remembered the words he told his wife years ago.
"Well, if you're going to side with them, then go with them!"
"Katara, what are you saying?"
"It won't work Aang. You can't even spare the time to be around me anymore! It's all about you and your beliefs and saving the World. I should have known before falling for you... Go and make the world better... No matter what that world might want to do to me or your child!"
Aang felt his heart had been carved out of his chest. In its place, a deep dark hole was beginning to fill with rage and despair. Katara was unsure, but she thought she saw Aang's eyes and arrows begin to flicker. The Avatar then began to pull water up from around him. He began to address his wife in a brash, loud tone:
"Katara, you may be right. Let's finish her now!"
Aang's fists clenched and the ice began amassing together. Eventually, Katara saw the shape of a large icicle. Aang moved the icepick above the assassin, and raised it up to the same position Katara held it moments earlier.
"Have I got it right? Is this how it's done? Huh?" His voice nearing a shout, Aang stared angrily at Katara, as his eyes began to flash the eerie blue light that signaled the Avatar State.
And it was then, from a third's person view, that Katara realized this was clearly an execution. It was not self-defense. It was not survival. It was murder: plain and simple. The healers and the warriors watched in horror as the Avatar raised Lian's body in a small ice platform, as if to aid the icy spear in its sinister duty. Katara took notice of the faces: scared, confused, distraught, disappointed. Their champion and hero (who was also the love of her life), was stooping to an unfathomable moral low: slaughter.
"Wait, Aang! Don't do it!"
Aang stopped his vulgar display of power, dropped the water and fell on his knees on the snow. He then began to cry. Katara lunged herself at him and began crying with him. Her wounds glistened in the moonlight, managing to capture Aang's attention for the first time. Amidst his sobbing, Aang apologized profusely to his wife. She too, asked for his forgiveness.
The healers immediately surrounded the couple, taking care of their wounds.
Lian woke up, her entire body aching. The sun was stinging her eyes. The sweltering, oppressive heat was cutting into her breathing. She had sand in her mouth from lying on the beach. She was at Ember Island.
She turned around and saw Tengu and Sokka atop Appa. Tengu addressed her in a dry tone:
"You've been let go with a warning for Lu Ming: you will be the last one to come close to the Avatar Family and be left alive. The next one will not be this fortunate."
The horned, flying beast took off without a sound, quickly disappearing into the horizon.
For the first time in years, Lian wept.
- Yes: the titles are all PanterA songs...
- Yes: "Vulgar Display of Power" is a PanterA album
- The Bos helped me write "By Demons Be Driven"; he rocks and that's that...
- Yes: this came out darker than expected, but I still like it...
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Honor Thy Father Chapters|
| Hope Against Hope - A Change of Pace - Tainted Sanctuary - A New Home - Recovered - Empowered - When In Doubt - The Hunt - Full Moon - Reckonings - Sora
The Love of the Daughter - The Wasted Warrior, Part 1: Cycles- The Wasted Warrior, Part 2: Regrets- Daddy - The Charade, Part 1: The Shadow - The Charade Part 2: The Beast - The Charade, Part 3: The Fool - The Breakthrough - Redemption, Part 1: Dejection - Redemption, Part 2: Dominion