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April 6, 2013
Book I: Heart
Chapter One: Power
I was there when Avatar Aang was struck by lightning.
I did nothing to stop it when I was the only one who could. And now, because of my inability to act, the cycle of the Avatar may be finished. Forever.
The cycle has always declared that for each new generation of humans, there must be a new Avatar to keep the balance between the four nations. One Avatar dies, and so, another must be brought into life from the subsequent nation. It has always been this way. From Water, to Earth, to Fire, to Air, and it repeats again. It is the cycle of life.
The spirit of the Avatar does not limit itself to just noblemen, or noblewomen. It has chosen many different personalities from many different classes to fit its role, whether it be from farmers or forgers, nobles or warriors. Those with nothing but a few rags and those with enough money to fill a fountain...the Avatar spirit has seen and visited them all. The spirit chooses not by the things that divide the nations, but by the character and strength of the people, for the new Avatar will need all of that to maintain peace and balance between the nations, the spirits, and the world.
Yet no one can foretell the future. Just like no one has the ability to restore the Avatar Spirit to the world, if it is truly dead and gone
No one can predict the decisions of humans, such fickle and flighty creatures we are. We cannot prevent a young Avatar from straying from what they were born to do, from what they are supposed to do. We cannot be sure that the goodness born naturally with the Avatar will weather through the harshness and austerity of the human world. The Avatar may be the bridge between the spirits and the humans, but they are still completely liable to be human.
Humans aren't perfect. And humans are always in danger of corruption.
It doesn't matter how lovingly they were brought up, because with the right words and events, they can become a thief, a murderer, a puppet, a monster in a second. And my charismatic sister is excellent when it comes to persuading people to join her with words.
No one is immune to this fatal flaw.
Not even the Avatar.
Thirteen years earlier...
Shadows loom threateningly above him, darkening the bronze walls. His eyes are trained on the row of flames in front of him, the sole barrier between him and the Phoenix Lord. (Other than, perhaps, an unseen barrier of mutual dislike.)
It is different, this blaze. It is no longer the traditional red and orange color that fire usually is.
It is the flickering, dancing streams of blue fire in the air: the Phoenix Lord's trademark. The flames curl into formless shapes as they hungrily lick at empty space, writhing, growling, begging to escape their shallow horizontal trench to which they are confined to; shifting, snarling, pleading to envelope something, anything, in a roaring inferno of azure flames.
The fire...the polar opposite of the blizzard in the South Pole. He remembered making his way towards the steel prison sitting in the middle of nowhere.
Fire. The element of power...the element of destruction.
He involuntarily shivers as he approaches the flames. Never mind the scary cobalt fire; he's more terrified of the person sitting behind that blue stuff than the element itself. He would have to be insane to not be frightened. Perhaps, at one time, he may have been able to hold his own against her (well, no, probably not), but now, that is all but impossible.
He forces himself to kneel before the Phoenix Lord, and bows his head in a gesture of submissiveness.
The cells. The reproachful gazes of waterbenders held captive in them on him.
"Phoenix Lord Azula."
Her sharp voice, so arrogant and proud, yet sly and crafty, washes over him as she responds. "Zuzu!" she exclaims happily, the sarcasm running in a clear undercurrent beneath her voice. She leans forwards with the ever-present devious glint in her golden eyes. "Tell me...what brings you to grace my presence with you being here today?" She pauses for a moment, and then inquires, "Have you a report on the fruits of your search?"
"Yes." His reply is brief and short. "We have investigated all of the facilities holding the Water Tribe prisoners and their children. There was no sign of a...reborn Avatar."
He walked down the corridor of the dark complex, trying to avoid the accusatory glares of the Water Tribers, the hisses of "traitor" on their lips.
His slight hesitation before the words "reborn Avatar" is not missed by his sister.
"I see." The Phoenix Lord's fingers tap methodically on her lap, and she stares at him, her hard amber gaze piercing straight through him, stripping his soul bare. "No signs at all?"
His jaw clenches tightly, his teeth grinding together as he reins in his temper. "No."
"No abnormal activity?" she presses, a strange gleam entering her eyes. "No escape attempts? No strange cases of...oh, I don't know...unexpected bending from any of the filthy peasants?"
Zuko's eyes widen a fraction of a centimeter.
The little girl, her mother's arms enveloping her small frame loosely but protectively. The father is nowhere to be seen, probably doing hard labor at the docks.
A flicker of a satisfied smile darts across Azula's lips, but it's instantly gone, and she stands up, the blue row of flames in front of her spiking up a little bit. "I'm waiting, Zuzu. Stop acting so clandestine. We don't have all afternoon."
Zuko hesitates for a long moment, and then slowly nods after the fire flares threateningly. "Yes," he hoarsely whispers. "A girl. Young. Four, at most."
Azula inclines her head as if she is surprised, but Zuko knows better than to trust her innocently curious expression.
"Is that so?" she asks.
As he passed by them, a burst of flame surprised him as the girl slipped out of her mother's grasp and produces a cartwheel of blazing fire, the flames dissipating right before they reached his head.
"She—she firebended. At my face." Zuko frowns at the memory.
His sister turns away, her hands folded neatly behind her back. "Yes, as if your handsome face isn't scarred enough," she breezily says. After a few moments of silence, only broken by the sputtering of the flames, she whips around, her face now screwed up in concentration and a touch of anger. "Do you know this girl's name?"
Her mother stiffened as though she had been electrocuted. She hurried forward to restrain her defiant daughter. "Korra!" She began to apologize profusely to him, her eyes wide and scared, and he uneasily waved the apologies off, assuring the mother that everything was fine.
"No," Zuko murmurs.
Azula scowls. "Of course, you don't bother finding out the name of a Water Tribe girl who can firebend."
She stalks over to him, a prowling tiger on the hunt, and whispers, "Which establishment is this girl in? Ba Sing Se? The South Pole?"
The girl's brilliant blue eyes met his gold ones, and she gave him one last suspicious glower before her mother ferreted her away from him.
Zuko stands up quickly, returning his sister's harsh amber glare. "You aren't going to take her away and kill her. She's only four, for Agni's—!"
Azula's face screws up into an expression of pure rage, yet her voice is as poisonous and controlled as ever. "I do not recall saying," she interrupts coldly, "that I would kill this firebending, Water Tribe peasant. You are forgetting your place, Prince Zuko." Her tone is full of mockery and contempt.
"Now, tell me—which—escarpment—is—she—in?" The blue flames shoot higher and higher with each word, and Zuko has to take a step back, for his eyebrows are in grave danger of getting seared off.
He stands there for a moment, and then lowers his gaze. "The South Pole."
Azula settles back into her seat, and the flames resume their normal height. "Very well. You say that she is four? Then in a year's time, notify the overseer of that camp—Wong Lee, is it?—that he is to bring her in..."
Zuko's eyes fly wide open in raw horror and dismay as he follows Azula's reasoning.
"...for army training," Azula continues as if she hasn't noticed Zuko's thunderstruck expression and his outburst, "Until then, keep her under close guard. And make sure that when she begins to train, there is plenty of...ah, incentive to keep her loyal. We don't want this...potentially prodigious Water Tribe firebender to escape from our clutches, now do we?" She waves a perfectly manicured hand, her eyes glittering with cruel intent as she dismisses him.
Zuko turns around, a sick feeling rising to his throat. This girl, Korra...Azula will have her all but twisted completely around her treacherous pinky finger by the end of the next year.
He tries not to shudder at the thought.
The girl in question, Korra, is currently having a mini temper tantrum.
"What d'you mean, I'm not allowed to firebend?" she incredulously asks, her eyebrows knit together into one of annoyance and irritation.
"Korra..." Senna begs, tears threatening to spill over her eyes, "please, listen to me. It's for your own good. No more firebending, especially not at the crown prince! We're very lucky that he did not punish you or our family."
Korra glares at her with an obstinate, defiant gleam in her eyes, but she eventually sits down on the ragged, dog-eared mat on the ground. "Fine." Her tone is small and angry, but Senna breathes an audible sigh of relief.
Darkness. It's what she sees. It's what she feels; a soupy, murky touch.
She doesn't like it. She's floating through nothing, as if she doesn't have a physical manifestation of herself, as if she is a figment of someone's imagination.
Answer the call.
Formless. The voice is echoing across the vast expanse of nothing, if that is possible.
Finish what was started.
"What was started? Who are you?"
I am the keeper of peace.
"Keeper of peace? Wow. You're doing a great job at that, aren't you?"
But not me...the whole world...counting on you...bring the peace...back to us...
"Look, if you're just going to ramble on in three-worded fragments that don't make any sense at all, I don't see why I should continue listening to you."
She wildly turns around, trying to find the source of the voice. But once again, she is greeted by nothing but a thick, soupy darkness.
Images. Dozens of them, assaulting her head at once.
She develops a massive migraine.
Battling through stormy waters. Sinking, drowning into the ocean. A pair of radiant azure eyes, framed by dark hair (and these two things hanging from the side of her face that Korra can only describe as "hair loopies") and a dark blue parka hood. Flying on an abnormally large, furry creature. A teenager with a bitter and angry expression, a large red scar branded across half his face. Fighting a curiously familiar female in dark red and black armor on top of some sort of metal machine that is drilling through tons of solid rock.
Those are the ones that she processes even for a brief time, but many, many more pass by, each of them so fleeting that she can't focus on one properly.
Korra...it awaits you...
The voice is more insistent now, and has lost some of its ringing quality.
"What? What's waiting for me?" she demands weakly, clutching her head. "Stop it...please..."
Her skull is ready to split as more visions bombard her relentlessly. A dark-skinned man in a helmet shaped like a wolf's head. A small girl in earthy green garb, with cloudy, misty eyes. Waterbending a glob of the twisting, shining liquid with another girl. A lady with glowing blue-white eyes. An old man in regal Fire Nation robes.
She winces as the sharp voice rips through the void in her dream and brings her back to reality.
"Hey!" Someone is shaking her quite violently, their voice coming from far away. "Wake up! Spirits damn you, what is going on?"
"Wha'?" Korra mumbles, focusing on the hazy figure of her roommate, who is standing over her and is obviously the one who has been shaking her to half to death.
"You were screaming in your sleep," Ruan bluntly informs her.
Korra struggles to prop herself up on her forearms. "I—I screamed?"
"No. Screw that. You didn't just scream," Ruan flatly says, "you were howling like a wounded animal. Probably woke up half the camp."
Korra struggles for something to explain her actions, and comes up with nothing usable that wouldn't sound stupid, and she drops her gaze. "Nightmare."
Ruan grunts, turning away. "Never mind," she mutters. "Must have been a pretty bad nightmare, hmm? But it's time to get up, at any rate. The masters want us down at the complex by sunrise." She gives Korra a half-glance as she yanks her uniform out of the shabby drawers. "You do remember, right? Today's the test."
The firebending test. How could Korra have forgotten about it?
Perhaps dreaming about disembodied voices in pure darkness every night for the past three days does tend to start driving one crazy.
A bundle of red clothes hits the spot on the cot that is next to her, producing a soft thump. Korra snatches the uniform, shaking the individual contents loose.
Ruan, who is already dressed impeccably and all ready to firebend, shakes her head. "Don't mention it."
So Korra turns, shuts up, and puts on her gear, unable to suppress a quiet feeling of excitement in her chest that this may be it, that after this final firebending exam is over and done with, she can finally be inducted into the Fire Nation army, a goal that she's spent well over half of her life trying to achieve.
Out of all of Korra's twelve years at the army base, ten of which she has spent training, she has racked up a grand total of one friend, who just happened to be Ruan. Her prowess at firebending did not score her any close relations with the other recruits; if anything, it made them more resentful of her—that they, pure-blooded Fire Nation natives, were shown up by a girl with a background from the Water Tribe (which also should have meant that she shouldn't have been able to firebend), out of all places. Whether or not Korra was called in by Phoenix Lord Azula herself to train, it didn't stop her fellow recruits from bullying and mocking her for her heritage any chance they had. Most of the trainers did nothing to stop the harassment either, and Korra suspected, probably rightly, that they disliked her presence as much as her classmates did. They made her work twice as hard to achieve the same goal as the other recruits (although Korra figured that this was a good thing in itself). One of them, Zheng, seemed to take a special pleasure in causing her more struggle, and in the rather common instance when she snapped and fought back against her tormentors, he broke the fight up and punished her. Never the instigators.
She's pretty irritated and fed up with the whole lot of them, and although she's learned all she knows about combative firebending here and appreciates it, no one can blame her for wanting out of this certain complex in the middle of nowhere. She wants to get out and see the world. And deep inside some gnarled place in her heart, she's resentful at the Fire Nation even after all they've taught her, resentful at how they treat her people, resentful that they snatched her away from her family that she barely remembers now.
But the threat of her parents' death, the parents whom she hasn't seen in twelve years, keeps her working hard enough.
After all, the master did mention at one point that if she did well in serving the Fire Nation, she'd get to see them again.
Ruan grabs Korra's hand as soon as she finishes attaching her knee guards to her legs. "C'mon, let's go!"
Ruan needn't to worry that they would be one of the last there. By the time she and Korra had gotten to the square where their test would be held, only about a quarter of the recruits had arrived, although it is almost sunrise. The overseeing master, a tall and thin man with a long white beard and a no-nonsense expression, seems slightly irritated by the poor attendance, muttering among his colleagues—another old and portly master and a few majors—that would be overseeing their firebending test.
Korra fidgets in her place while turning her helmet around in her hands. Never one for patience, she edgily waits for her fellow trainees to get to the square so the exam could commence, and when they finally do all trickle in (the sun has risen well over the horizon by the time they all arrive), the master claps his hands for attention.
"You will take your final tests today!" he loudly reminds them, as if they need any reminding. Korra half-listens to him as he launches into a long speech about the importance of serving to protect the Phoenix Empire against the rebels and whoever, the history behind the Phoenix Empire's great conquest of the four nations and how much something that happened over two decades ago would impact the rest of their lives, and blah, blah, blah.
Korra eventually snaps to attention as the master finally moves to the mechanics of their test. "Each of you will be facing one of these trainers"—he gestures towards three of the instructors, all of them who've basically made Korra's life a living hell for the past decade—"in an Agni Kai. It is your choice. At the end of the match, we will determine whether or not you are worthy to serve in the Phoenix Empire's esteemed army!" He looks at the line of recruits, whose expressions are a mix of boredom, excitement, shock, and fear. "Would anyone like to volunteer?"
Korra quickly looks up to glance at the three instructors. Now's her chance, her chance to give back all the pain and suffering they've dealt to her.
She steps forwards, fully conscious of the murmur that ripples through the line behind her, ill-meaning chuckles trailing her in her decision.
The firebending master gives her a critical yet cursory look over, and she watches with a growing feeling of anger in her chest as his lip curls slightly in blatant displeasure.
"Take your pick," he snaps, waving impatiently at the firebending instructors.
Korra steadily meets his hard gaze, and turns towards the instructors. "All three. I choose all three of you."
She can tell that the master and the instructors are taken aback by her crazy response, as is everyone else.
"You don't really think that you can beat all of us, do you?" One of them breaks the silence, his drawl slow and mocking.
Korra simply drops into her firebending stance, a smirk creeping its way up the edges of her lips. "Well...why don't you just come over here...and we'll all find out?" The remark has its intended effect. Aggravated, the three instructors step into the square, flames spurting out of their clenched fists.
Korra rolls out of the way and brings up her right fist, blasting her own stream of orange flame at the man. She watches the instructor briefly as he tumbles down onto the ground, smoking a little, and she then swivels around quickly, noting the two fireballs roaring towards her from the other instructors. The flames rush towards her, their heat utterly scorching, yet she keeps her cool, easily dispersing the inferno in front of her into harmless wisps with a circular wave of her arms. One of the instructors narrows his eyes and races forwards, sending multiple quick jets of fire from his fists while doing so. Korra twists to the side to avoid one bullet of flame and dodges another, quickly advancing onto the instructor while doing so. Her opponent jumps up, swinging his left leg in midair to produce a blazing arc of fire. Korra rolls under the blast and, while doing so, swipes her leg down at the instructor's outstretched foot, unbalancing him. He stumbles as he lands, his eyes slightly stretched wide in surprise.
Korra turns to face the other instructor still standing while she has the chance, thrusting both of her hands into the oncoming surge of fire to stall it while sharply kicking back at the other man when he tries to attack her behind her back. He slides back on the ground with an audible grunt.
With the threat behind her stalled, Korra punches the air, slices of hot orange fire pouring out of her fists wherever she draws them. The instructor's arms instinctively fly up to protect his face, yet he's pushed back as Korra's powerful flames land on him until he falls down.
The man she kicked has recovered, and punches two consecutive blasts of fire at her, which she counters, negating its effects with a well-placed jab. She counters with her own spray of fire, pivoting quickly around on her foot and firebending some more at the other instructor, who has also gotten up and is obviously out for blood by this point. As he sends an inferno of swirling flames at her, Korra tears through it as though she's opening a pair of curtains, splitting the fire down the middle and exploding from it like a mad creature from hell. And she is mad. This display of firebending is years of struggle and pent-up anger and resentment set free, and finally, this is all about her. It's her chance to shine as bright as the fire she's producing at the moment.
Her eyes narrowed in intense concentration, she brings her fists together, two humongous surges of fire erupting from each of her hands, combining into one massive eruption of thunderous red, orange, and yellow flame.
The instructor doesn't have a chance to react as the wall of fire hits him square in the chest, its blow so powerful that he goes flying through the air, spewing black smoke everywhere like a malfunctioning steamship. There's an audible oof! sound as the man collapses on the top of a roof. He slides down limply, the railing on the side of the roof preventing the man from tumbling down onto the ground. Korra feels a small smile form across her lips as she faces down her last opponent, who looks rather stunned and upset. Not wasting a moment, the instructor sprints forward, his arms stretched out in front of him, releasing a jet of flame at her. Korra tackles it head-on, tearing through the massive bulb of flame as if it were air. She counteracts the man's fire blast, clasping her palms over his, and then, using his hands as a prop, she leaps over him, twisting in the air and slashing her leg downwards, unleashing a scythe of brilliant orange flame at the man. She quickly follows through with another blast of fire from her fists. Both of the attacks hit the man, one immediately coming after the other, and his legs tremble as the flames burn themselves out. The instructor stands on jelly legs for a moment before he collapses into a smoking heap on the ground.
Korra grins, a rush of satisfaction coursing through her as she thrusts her fists up into the air in a gesture of victory. "Ha! Chumps."
It was an excellent display of firebending, and Korra knows it. If she didn't get inducted the army after that demonstration, she honestly didn't know what would.
Even the firebending master's tight-lipped expression fails to dampen her enthusiasm as he grudgingly nods, turning away from the group of majors and masters he had been conferencing with. "We have reached our decision."
"Truly, an excellent Agni Kai," the other master chimes in, unbidden. The area around his eyes crinkle as he smiles at her. "Well done, corporal."
"Yeah!" Korra exclaims, tearing off her helmet, unable to suppress the wide and silly grin that must be stretched across her face.
The first master raises an eyebrow, his mouth quirking a little in disapproval.
"I mean..." Korra coughs a little, and then bows respectfully towards the masters. "Thank you for...uh, believing in me."
They did anything but, and the master sharply turns away, ordering one of the majors to revive the instructors.
Ruan nudges her as she jogs back to the line, basking in the glow of her victory. It's easy to ignore the looks on the other recruits' faces.
"Didn't leave any for us, huh?" Ruan wryly asks, smiling a little. "Nice job, Corporal Korra."
"Stop teasing me," Korra protests, but it must seem very unconvincing with a huge smile still plastered across half of her face.
With her firebending test under her belt, perhaps things will start going up now.
"Everything is in place, General. They are all ready."
"Good. We will leave at nightfall." There's a pause. "And the Avatar?"
"Our source believes that she will be present at the complex."
The man who the first person called "General" nods. "Make orders for the retrieval, if possible. But remember, be careful while doing so. She will have a certain mindset drilled into her from the years at that complex. And stick to the plan."
"Don't worry." The voice is set with grim determination. "We will."
There is no movement in howling blizzard that moves in by the afternoon. Visibility is poor, but that shouldn't matter. After all, who would be crazy enough to venture out into weather like this?
Korra shivers a little, fighting the urge to wrap her arms around herself as she stands on a gloomy watchtower attached to the prison complex. She didn't know why the majors threw her and seven other new soldiers to watch the night shift, but it seems absolutely pointless in the storm.
She peers out of the tower, squinting, trying to see through the thick wall of snow and ice.
Korra sighs and withdraws from the small window glumly. So far, this life, one of a soldier, is even more mundane and boring than it was in the training center. But perhaps she's too quick to judge; she's only been inducted for less than a day. She perks up as she hears a thump somewhere directly below her, and moves cautiously near the door. There's the sound of a faint grunt, and Korra stiffens right as the door is thrown open by a figure clad in dark blue and white furs, with a wolf-shaped helmet.
Water Tribe raider.
Korra curses as the raider waterbends a long stream of liquid out of some hidden flask and flings the whip at her, which she barely dodges. It sharply cracks over her head, and she rolls to the side, finishing in a kneeling position as she aims a short blast of fire at the raider.
Alarms begin to ring through the whole prison, and Korra ducks under another whip, firebending a stream of flame towards the man's legs. He jumps back from her attack, and Korra chooses that moment to smash the door open, making a beeline straight down the tower as she half-trips, half-leaps down the staircase. By the time she bursts into the complex that is connected to the watchtower, the prison is in complete chaos. Raiders are running rampant through the cells, fighting the unprepared prison guards successfully, causing havoc, breaking into cells, and generally, causing mass chaos.
Korra aims an arc of fire at two raiders fleeing the carnage, and it catches their armor in the back, causing them to shout in pain and stumble, their uniforms smoking, but they don't stop; they continue down a corridor instead, unnoticed through all the fighting. (Save for her, of course.)
Korra tears after them, adrenaline coursing through her veins, and notes with a shiver that they seem to know their way rather well around the complex, not hesitating at any turns and navigating their way through the prison with ease. It's almost as if they've been here before; studied some maps the Water Tribe got from who-knows-where, perhaps.
Korra punches outwards, bulbs of flame blossoming from both of her fists. One of the raiders quickly waterbends a wall of liquid out of a water skin hanging from his belt, deflecting the fire. He shouts something to his comrade, and the other raider nods, continuing without his partner.
The raider attacks her immediately, drawing two long streams of water from his reserve. He wraps it around his arms, so it seems like he has two abnormally large watery tentacles for his upper limbs. He slashes down with one of them, and Korra lurches towards the side, raising her foot and blasting a torrent of flame at her assailant. The raider manages to bat it away with his tentacles and extends his arms forwards, the water shooting towards her own arms. Korra stumbles back, throwing up a wall of fire to shield her from the worst of the attack, but the one of the water whips cuts through the fire and wraps around her wrist. The barrier of fire dies down, and Korra snarls as the water hardens into pure ice. Another tentacle curls around her left arm, and she starts to flail around, struggling to break out of the cold bonds.
The waterbender laughs callously as he flicks his hand down, the rest of the water obeying his commands and freezing her body in place.
"Did you really think that you could take us that easily?" he asks tauntingly, the tone of his voice so similar to all of her tormentors from over the years that Korra struggles even more.
"Don't bother trying to break out, firebender," the raider continues, his voice confident as he turns around. "None of your kind has ever broken out of that." He pauses, slowly crosses over to her, and slides off her helmet, letting it clatter to the floor, surveying her with raw contempt written across his face. "But you're not true Fire Nation, are you? You are Water Tribe." He spits on the ground in disgust. "At least, half so...for you can firebend. So, that being said, who is the firebender in the family tree? The father? Of course, I would expect someone from the Fire Nation to do such a...thing."
Korra sharply jerks at her bonds again. "You leave my family out of this, you—!"
He does not listen to her spit out some of the nastiest words she keeps in her vocabulary and continues taunting her. "Who knew that out brothers and sisters would submit so easily to our people's greatest enemy?"
Korra grits her teeth, her gaze turning red with sheer fury at the jab at her relations, and she strains with all her might, fighting to break out of the prison even after the dismissal that she wouldn't be able to. But she's never one to give up without a battle.
"There is no firebender," she snarls helplessly, tugging uselessly at her right arm.
"Uh huh," the raider smirks, clearly enjoying watching her struggle, "which is how you are able to firebend."
And on some primal level inside of her, something shifts and clicks into place. A brief rush of power surges through her, but it's all she needs to break through. As she strains once again, the ice fractures, and with a sound like a cannon blast, the prison shatters, shooting razor-sharp particles of ice flying everywhere. They impale themselves on walls, on floors, on any solid surface, and Korra leaps up, her face screwed up in anger as the waterbender starts, swiveling quickly around.
"How did you...?" he weakly stammers.
Korra wordlessly brings her hands together, letting all her rage pour out into this single attack: an unrelenting charge of flames pouring towards the raider, nothing stopping its destructive path. He lets out a hiss of alarm and bends a thick barrier of water towards to shield him, which blocks a little of the heat, but he still bears the worst brunt of the attack. He flies back a good twenty feet, skidding on the floor, his armor sending sparks flying as it rubs abrasively against the metal floor. Korra shakes loose her tingling arms while approaching the raider, who is lying sprawled on the ground, his breath coming out in short and sharp gasps.
"Who...who are you?" he whispers, fear and loathing both evident in his voice.
"I'm a firebender who also just happens to be Water Tribe, and you're going to deal with it!" She steps past him after shoving on her discarded helmet again, unable to resist kicking his limp arm aside as she ventures down the corridor, although every fiber of her being is screaming at her to finish him off with a fire blast for his coarse taunts. Burn him to a crisp, maybe.
There's a door at the end of the corridor that's hanging open on its hinges, its dead bolt loose, as if it has been forcibly wrenched open by something—or someone.
Korra steps over the gaping opening and narrows her eyes, quietly observing the small group of prisoners heading rapidly down the hall, and is, for a moment, confused. The two raiders had seemed to know where they were going before; why is this one, the partner of the man she has just knocked out, leading the prisoners into a dead end?
Korra shakes her confused thoughts off, shrugging mentally.
Well...all the easier to catch them.
She quietly shuts the door in place behind her, betting that the hell that is about to break loose will attract at least some attention from the other skirmishes happening around the prison, and aims a blast of fire at the entourage, stopping them in their tracks.
A few of the prisoners scream as they wildly turn around, tripping over their own feet to view Korra with horror in their wide blue eyes. And it makes her falter a little, staring into the ragged, exhausted, scared faces of her own people, but if she is to "serve the Fire Nation well" and finally be able to reap the awards for her successes, she's going to have to stop them.
"I suggest that you give yourselves over right now," she coldly says, still in the same stance as when she shot the fire at the group.
Their leader, the other Water Tribe raider of the pair Korra followed, leaps to face her, offering some rather useless protection to the prisoners. She can tell on sight that he is not as nearly experienced nor as confident as the raider she faced earlier. His eyes betray the same fear on the prisoners' faces, his arms shaking a little. When he speaks, his voice is young, uncertain, the voice of a boy who has just barely entered his teens.
It was undeniably pathetic. Korra resists the urge to laugh out loud as he retorts shakily.
"Stay away, and you won't get hurt."
"We'll see about that, won't we?" In a quick move, she leaps through the air in a spinning kick, fire appearing wherever she draws her leg. The waterbender quickly bends a stream of water out of his pouch to deflect the flames, but it's too little, too late. He goes crashing to the ground as the fire hits him, but scrambles up, albeit stumbling a little, his eyes set with steely determination.
Korra swings past his first water whip and slashes through it with a searing cut of fire, evaporating the liquid into useless vapor. She closes the distance, ducking under a bit of sharp ice and sweeps her leg horizontally and near the floor, sending an arc of flame racing towards the raider. He stumbles out of the way, tripping a little, and Korra is onto him, kneeing his chest while her hands close around his shoulders, locking him in a tight grip.
The raider's breathing is sharp and fast, yet he stares defiantly at her, his lower lip trembling a little as he jerks under her hold.
"Surrender, kid," she grins cockily, "you know you're beaten."
"Kid?" the raider snaps back immediately, evidently insulted. "You don't sound that old yourself." Korra glares at him, and so, while glowering, catches his eyes flick a little to his right. She stiffens and jumps, throwing the raider to the ground as she turns quickly around, but it's too late.
Two other raiders, leading a smaller group of escapees, have arrived, each of them armed with more water skins. The door behind them is bolted shut with solid ice, and there is a loud hammering at the other end, indicating that some other people—hopefully, backup Fire Nation soldiers—are trying to get in.
Korra ducks under a water bullet that's thrown at her, and wildly firebends at the raider, catching his shoulder plate but not doing any real damage. The water bullet returns, catching her under the chin. She grunts as the helmet flies off from the force of the blast and stumbles back, her face and hair dripping wet, her face open for all to behold.
It's clear from the looks on the raiders' and prisoners' faces that they are not expecting a firebender who is, as they know now, a seventeen-year-old Water Tribe girl.
Korra doesn't waste the surprise and brings her hands up, surges of fire erupting out of her fists and towards the waterbenders. Almost instantly, both of them raise a water shield to deflect the flames, and as they work with repelling the fire, Korra turns around, firebending at the ice locking the door into place and consequentially melting it. Even as a wave of water hits her in the back and sends her stumbling back into the wall, the door bursts open, revealing a platoon of Fire Nation soldiers, freshly arrived and armed to the teeth.
The leader steps forwards, joining Korra to face down the raiders and the prisoners. The looks on all of their faces tell Korra that they know that they've lost.
"Don't fight us," the leader of the Fire Nation soldiers warns the raiders, "you see now that you're trapped."
The thuds of the water skins as they hit the ground echo through the corridor, their owners lifting their hands up in surrender.
Korra's lips curve down into a small frown as the leader orders a few soldiers to retake the prisoners and the raiders. From what she's been told about them, they never just surrendered like that. It disturbs her, but she is distracted from her thoughts by the leader.
"You melted the ice on the lock, didn't you?" he asks approvingly. "Thanks for helping us out."
Korra nods. "You're welcome."
The soldier sticks a hand out. "So, anyways...what's your name?"
"I hardly think that this is the time to be exchanging introductions," Korra drily murmurs, indicating with her head towards the prisoners and raiders being rounded up by the soldiers, but she accepts his offer at a handshake. "I'm Korra."
The soldier nods knowingly. "Ah. You're that girl who challenged the three instructors at once, weren't you? The new corporal?" He notes Korra's confused expression and hastily adds, "I was there."
"Right..." Korra says, still wondering what this has to do with anything, but she awkwardly asks back, "And your name is?"
"Mako," he answers. "My name is Mako."
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Book I: Heart|
| 1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. Scars | 6. Cosmos | 7. Vortex | 8. Phoenix | 9. Fire|
10. Fallout | 11. Betrayal | 12. Avatar
|Book II: Mind|
|To be announced after "Book I: Heart" has been completed.|
|Book III: Body|
|To be announced after "Book II: Mind" has been completed.|
|Book IV: Soul|
|To be announced after "Book III: Body" has been completed.|