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Ch3ingrained
Art by Yuki119
Chapter information
Series

Moon Drops

Book

Water

Chronicle

Arc 1: Air

Chapter

3

Written by

Meg Lindsey

Editor(s)

ByBray

Release date

May 6th, 2013

Chronology
Last chapter

Tolerance

Next chapter

Alleviate

Nature will always prevail in its course, both natural and otherwise

Korra wasn't quite sure what she had been expecting upon her arrival to the Northern Water Tribe—but riots were definitely not something she would have considered. The people lined the streets with outrage deeply drawn over their faces. They jeered at her, mocked her, and one waterbender even had the audacity to hit the back of her head with a snowball as her escorted skiff drifted through the in-city canals. She angrily narrowed her eyes at the crowd and immediately pinpointed the bender—sending him flying into the air before he was finally dropped into the icy Northern waters.

Tarrlok hid his amusement by focusing his attention on the palace up ahead. Korra growled in frustration beside him, waterbending the melting snow out of her hair. "Ugh! What is wrong with these people?!"

A deep crease formed over his forehead and his brow lowered over his blue eyes like a hunting wolf. "That's precisely what we're here to find out," he replied to the Avatar in a low and reserved voice.

Truth be told, Tarrlok hadn't expected things to be this bad, either. He knew that the Northern Water Tribe was suffering from the shift in power and that many of the residents were not pleased that a southerner was now governing the throne when there were two perfectly capable heirs that could have inherited it. The first thing on Tarrlok's agenda was to meet with Commander Bumi who, with his naval fleet, was currently stationed here. While Tarrlok's ultimate goal for this trip was to win Tonraq's favor, he also knew that would be pointless if he could not win the favor of the Northern tribespersons as well.

Tarrlok and Korra had left Republic City less than a week ago. Thanks to modern forms of transportation, time spent traveling on would-be long trips were much shorter. Tarrlok had not spoken much with her during this time; he could tell she was still rather perturbed with him about this whole marriage-thing. He had no doubts that she would come to her senses in time, however. One big step, he was sure, would be to get Tonraq's blessing—which not even the "esteemed" Mako had received, according to Korra.

As soon as the skiff passed under the palace gates, the voices of the protesting citizens became muffled and eventually disappeared altogether. Korra and Tarrlok stepped out of their boat at the base of the palace staircase where Bumi was waiting for them.

He was dressed in his United Forces uniform, complimented by a set of pink earmuffs, and greeted the couple with a wide grin on his face—in spite of the circumstances. "How'd you like the little welcome party? Not my idea, but still riveting I'm sure," He joked with a light snort as he clasped hands with Tarrlok.

"Quite," He managed to reply with a certain stoic tone.

Tarrlok wasn't in favor of those who would jest at the severity of a situation like the one that they were being exposed to in the Northern Water Tribe. It simply was not in good taste. Bumi turned to the Avatar and extended a hand to her as well. "A pleasure as always, Dad-Korra."

Oh that was a creepy thought that Tarrlok had been desperately trying to keep out of his mind—Bumi's comment did not help him in those efforts. Tarrlok could tell that Korra had also not found the humor in Bumi's words. "I told you to call me Korra," she corrected him stiffly.

Bumi continued as if he hadn't heard her, "So! How about a little palace tour before we get down to business?"

Tarrlok was not interested in a tour of the palace, as his only purpose for being here was on business. He was very thankful when Korra declined the commander's invitation, stating that she already knew her way around. Shouldn't he have known that anyway? Maybe he was just trying to use the offer as a distraction from more pressing matters. Tarrlok was sure that was the case.

"Sheesh! Alright, alright!" He said, holding his hands up in surrender.

Suddenly, a figure in dark blue poked its head around the corner of an ice pillar holding up the frame of the front entryway. "Korra?" The female voice asked.

Korra peered around Bumi's wild hair to see her cousin Eska garbed in full royal attire. "Hey... uh... Eska?" Korra responded with a perked brow.

It wasn't usual for her cousin to roam about the palace without her twin brother Desna, and definitely not dressed-to-impress. The princess greeted her cousin with a wide smile and a gentle hug. The Avatar had to admit that Eska looked a lot less creepy than the last time she had seen her. Korra was glad to see that Eska had finally seemed to get her own personality, but Korra couldn't help but wonder where her other creepy cousin was. "So where's—?"

Korra's question was cut off by her father's calm voice echoing off of the ice and snow structures, "Tarrlok."

The chief descended the stairs with Senna and various servants at his side to meet their company. Korra had never seen her parents look so opulent before. It was—really weird. "I'd like to introduce you to Princess Eska of the Northern Water Tribe," Tonraq finished, with a nod to Korra's cousin.

Tonraq then gestured for Eska to move toward the new family member, and as she did so she gave him a light curtsey. Tarrlok reciprocated with a deep bow of respect to the princess. "I am humbled to be in your presence, Your Highness," he gave her hand a quick peck in greeting.

Korra rolled her eyes, but Eska smiled lightly at his greeting. She did not respond however, which was not uncommon when Desna was not with her—in this case, that greatly bothered Korra. Her parents gave her a small group hug. If Korra was being honest, she had missed them something awful, especially now that they had moved to the Northern Water Tribe. "Korra," Tonraq said gently, cupping his gloved hand against her face.

Her father smiled down at her cheeks that were slightly pink from the cold. His eyes moved to the engagement necklace that had peeked at him from under the fluffy collar of Korra's new parka. That was good. Seeing an engagement necklace on Korra's neck made Tonraq feel a little better, because that likely meant that Tarrlok was serious about this arrangement. He turned to face his son-in-law, "I am relieved to know that you made it here safely. We have much to talk about."

Chief Tonraq motioned for Tarrlok to follow him, and Korra took a step forward to join them. She didn't get further than that because Senna had grabbed her hand unexpectedly. Tarrlok stopped for a moment before Senna urged him to follow her husband without Korra's presence. Bumi loudly accompanied Tarrlok up the staircase and into the palace. Korra gave her mother a questioning look. "Uh, aren't we going to follow them?"

"Women are not permitted in the war room," Senna replied quietly.

"War room!" The words fell from Korra's mouth without a thought, "Why are they—what are they doing in the war room?!"

Eska rolled her eyes at her cousin—mimicking one of Korra's earlier reactions. Sometimes Korra could be really dense. What else would they be doing in the war room other than planning a war? Korra didn't understand who they were plotting war against. It couldn't be the Southern Water Tribe, could it? Korra's marriage to Tarrlok should have fixed that problem! If she had married that selfish, arrogant, impudent man for nothing—

"Don't worry," her mother said carefully, giving Korra's hand a light, comforting squeeze, "it's about the Northern Tribe citizens, not the Southern Tribe."

Korra frowned. They shouldn't be planning a war without the Avatar—it was her duty to keep peace and balance in the world, and if she could prevent this from happening, then she should be permitted to try. Korra ripped her hand out of her mother's grasp. "Mom, Dad can't be serious about waging war against the citizens of the Northern Tribe, right? What good will that do?"

Senna's eyes were downcast. "When would your father ever willingly start a war, Korra? He's much more interested in trying to appeal to the citizens than attacking them."

"So why hasn't he done it yet? Dad's not stupid. What do they want?"

Korra was losing her patience. Her father was an intelligent man and a capable leader. He was kind and gracious, generous and loyal—there was no reason that she could think of that would spur all of this unnecessary violence in the north. Perhaps that was the most frustrating part.

The princess chimed in, "It's not his fault. Uncle Tonraq didn't have a choice. My dad didn't think Desna and I were ready for the throne—we all knew that—and he was right! I'm still not ready for the throne!"

Korra was a little surprised to hear her cousin admit that. It was true sign of maturity that she could confess she was ill-prepared for ruling the Northern Tribe. Korra was extremely impressed. However, she still had one question. Her face became serious and she met her cousin's eyes, "So where is Desna?"

Eska looked away from her cousin. It was obvious that this was not something she had wanted to talk about. Korra repeated her question, a bit more forceful this time. Senna rested her hands on Eska's shoulders and nodded to her, trying to persuade her to reveal the answer to the Avatar. Eska sighed. "We—don't really know where he is."

Korra's eyes went wide. What did Eska mean by that? Why would Desna just leave? What was going on! The princess continued, "You know that when Chief Unalaq died last year his dying wish was for your dad to take the throne as regent until Desna or I had matured enough to take over the leadership of the tribe. But..."

Eska looked pleadingly at her cousin with her blue eyes outlined in violet makeup. Korra picked up where Eska had left off, "But neither of you wanted to become Chief."

The princess nodded. "We didn't think that it would cause our people to become so divided! They split into two factions, the ones loyal to my father and the ones loyal to tradition. Those who were fond of Chief Unalaq's rule think that he must have had good reason for not passing the title to Desna or me. The others feel Desna and I have been slighted by our father and that we are the rightful leaders of the Northern Tribe," she paused, "...but mostly the people here are angry with Uncle for accepting, my brother and I for declining, and even at my father for dying in the first place."

Senna frowned and nodded her head. When she had married Tonraq all those years ago, she never would have guessed that she would get caught up in the middle of all of this violence. "Many of the citizens do not want to be governed by southerners because they don't feel we understand their culture or their leadership processes. And their hostility to Tonraq's guidance has caused much friction with the Southern Water Tribe. The northerners called for war upon the southern tribe for your father to prove his loyalty—which, as you know, he felt obligated to do."

"But then I married Tarrlok. That should have put an end to this!" Korra blurted out.

She found all of this news to be very vexing and disturbing. Why were people so stupid?! Why couldn't they just all get along and make her Avatar job easier? Senna's head swayed from side to side. "Your marriage did stop a war, but without your father's approval, things still aren't settled. And even if Tarrlok had your dad's blessing, Korra, I don't think that would resolve much of anything," Senna sighed, "Northern Tribe citizens respect their Republic City Council Representative on account that they were the ones that made the election decision in the first place. As such, they respect Tarrlok. Your marriage to him was a great sacrifice on your part for this cause—great enough to prevent a war."

Senna smiled at her daughter. She couldn't be more proud of what Korra had accomplished. That smile, however, quickly faded, and with a heavy heart Senna continued, "However, it is a rather unanimous belief amongst both tribes that your marriage to Tarrlok will not last. The moment that bond breaks, there will be nothing left to stop the battle to follow."

Korra asked again how Desna was tied in to all of this. It seemed rather strange that he would just up and leave whilst his people argued amongst each other and struggled with the shift in leadership. "We think he might be leading one of the factions declaring themselves to be Traditionalists," Eska said in a hushed voice, "most of our staff at the palace are Unalaq's Loyalists and Spiritualists—who believe that the spirits wanted things to turn out this way. The protesters you saw earlier were a mix of Naturalists that believe we have disrupted the natural order, and the Traditionalists."

She quickly met Korra's eyes with a pleading look. "I really don't want to lead the tribe—and, after what he's done to further divide the North's people, I don't think Desna should be permitted to govern the tribe," Eska sighed, "I have agreed to inherit the title of chief after your father, but Avatar Korra, if there's anything you can do to help the Northern Water Tribe in its plight—then, please..."

Avatar Korra? It wasn't often that Eska called her that. This was serious. Korra gave her mother and cousin a tight hug and a determined expression. "I promise, on my honor as the Avatar, that if I can do anything in my power to help you, then I will. I am going to find a way out of this mess."

Eska watched the Avatar stomp away. She was tempted to call after her and inquire as to where Korra was going, but she thought better of herself. Her cousin could do whatever she wanted. Senna gave her niece a weak smile before retreating back into the palace. Eska sighed, a large puff of fog escaping from between her lips. Everyone in her family seemed like they were living double lives in some form or another. As for her, it was maybe a little less severe: Eska had fallen for a boy from another nation. In the old days, that was just taboo entirely, but after the Harmony Restoration Movement the nations began to intermingle more and more. Now it was almost labeled racism to not accept such a thing. She was still the princess of the Northern Water Tribe, though—by birth. It would simply not be favorable to have her marry outside the Northern Water Tribe.

A palace servant bowed before the princess and offered her an escort back inside. She smiled to the kind gentleman and declined. "But if you would like to escort me to the spirit oasis, that would be much appreciated."

He graciously obliged to her wishes, following her across the large courtyard to the not-so-secret location of the Moon and Ocean spirits. This servant had accompanied her here before, but he had never intruded upon her privacy. "Shall I wait outside once more, Princess?" He asked her politely.

She nodded, "Please."

"Then, as always, I shall let no one disturb you, Princess."

He didn't ask what she was doing, and he didn't need to know. Eska was grateful for the patience and devotion he had given her. She opened the door and carefully stepped through, picking up her cumbersome skirts as she did. This was the warmest place in the whole North Pole, but where Eska was going, she would need her coat. She quietly followed the path around the spirit pool, listening to the train of her parka glide over the loose dirt and rock. She crossed over the bridge and onto the small isle of the Moon and Ocean spirits. The legends said that one of the previous princesses of the Northern Water Tribe had given up her life to save the Moon spirit. Her name had been Princess Yue.

Eska gazed at the koi fish circling one another in the pond before her. And her people actually believed that these fish were the mortal forms of the Moon and Ocean spirits? The likelihood was little. Eska bowed to the koi fish, all the same—on the off-chance she was incorrect. It was better to be safe than to be sorry; she didn't need angry spirits cursing her.

The princess turned her back on the spirits and moved behind the arch that was supposedly the portal into the Spirit World. Eska had passed through that gate many times before. Always the result was the same: she was still in the mortal plane. It was just as well, she supposed.

She headed for the waterfall and ducked behind its pure and eternal stream from the cliffside. Everything beyond the waterfall was just as cold as if she weren't in the Spirit Oasis at all. Eska hugged her coat tighter. Whether anyone knew she came here or not, Eska had often sought his council in the past few weeks. He was the wisest and most spiritual person she knew. Eska bowed her head in respect—and also partially to prevent from hitting her head against the low ceiling of the catacombs. She sighed, a light whimper escaping her mouth involuntarily.

His name was engraved in the stone of his sarcophagus, and Eska spent a moment to just read the font over and over again before finally squeaking out her greeting, "Hi... Dad."

This was the final resting place of all the Great Chieftains of the Northern Water Tribe. A tear rolled down her face and she fought to blink away the rest as she collapsed upon her father's tomb to embrace him in her mourning.


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