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|More from Stormfire||Adventure||G (all ages)||None||No update page|
Book One: Deceit
September 8, 2010
In a strangely familiar place...
Kya stared around at her surroundings, wide-eyed. She was standing amidst a thick forest of trees and bamboo – a completely normal sight, yet she was sure that she had never been here before. In awe, Kya turned her gaze up to the sky and was startled by a familiar sight. Strange, cloudlike shapes dotted a yellowish background.
She had seen that in her last weird dream. The setting was different, but it was definitely the same sky.
Gosh, I'm having this dream again? I would've preferred the Ice Cream Rodeo... How come I didn't have another dream before this one like last time...? Oh well. I guess I'd better go looking for that arch thing that got me out of here.
With a calm shrug of her shoulders, Kya strolled off in a random direction, allowing her instincts to guide her – which probably was not a good idea, she realized idly. As she walked, her mind wandered to the events that had been unfolding recently in the real world. The journey home from the revolt had been quiet, as though everyone was aware of impending danger, but no one dared speak of it. Even Sokka and Gyatso had kept their mouths shut.
But worst of all had been Zuko. He seemed absolutely crushed by the discovery of the so-called Knights of the Phoenix. Kya could only imagine what he was feeling as he traveled back to his city, where everyone believed that he had a firm grip on his nation. Had he known that his control was crumbling beyond the borders of their home? How could he have?
Kya's thoughts were interrupted by a rustling in the undergrowth to her left. She turned and eyed it curiously before remembering that this was a dream. Surely nothing in a dream could harm her.
With that in mind, she walked boldly toward the source of the sound. When she was a few feet away, however, a blur shot out of the bushes and rushed through the air, heading straight in her direction. Before Kya had a chance to step back, the brown and white shape came to a screeching halt in front of her face, staring at her through wide green eyes. Kya cocked her head to the side, fascinated. This creature was cute. It had big ears and a long, striped tail, and attached to its arms were bat-like wings.
"Aw!" she exclaimed cheerfully. "Aren't you just the cutest little thing?"
The strange animal gazed at her for a moment before closing the last few inches between them and landing softly on her shoulder, chattering excitedly as he wrapped his tail around her neck. Kya smiled. At least now she would have company while she tried to find her way out of here. And besides, he was so cute!
"So, I guess you're wondering what I'm doing here," she began, starting off on her journey once again. "Actually, I'm kinda wondering that myself. This is the second time I've come here, and I don't know why. But it's just a dream, so I guess I can't help it. Maybe something I ate... Hey, do you think you could show me where that cool arch is that can take me back to my normal dreams?"
The creature gave a blink of his great round eyes.
"I know you can't talk," Kya went on, "but pretending that you can helps me think better. I don't really wanna be alone here. Last time, I had this really nice airbender as a guide... And my mom thinks that it might have been the spirit of my dad. I really wish I could see him again. I have a lot of things that I want to ask – "
The animal perched on Kya's shoulder looked up at the sound of the voice. Kya glanced at it, then turned in the direction from which she had heard it come. There was something really familiar about that tenor tone...
And then she saw him.
He emerged from the thick brush, exactly the same as she remembered him. Kya perked up immediately when the airbender looked at her, and she raced over to greet him. On her shoulder, the creature – whose name, she guessed, must be Momo, since the airbender had clearly been looking for someone – continued his exuberant babble. Clearly, the man was a friend of his.
"I'm so glad to see you!" Kya exclaimed, stopping beside him. "I have no idea where I'm going, and I'm kinda tired, so I'd really like to go back to having that dreamless kind of sleep. So what have you been up to lately? Is this little guy a friend of yours? His name's Momo, right? By the way, what's your name?"
She had expected him to be happy to see her, and to at least attempt to answer her onslaught of questions. Instead, he stared at her in absolute silence, his lips forming a tiny 'o'. Kya frowned. There was something wrong about how he looked; it almost reminded her of how Zuko had been acting lately. He looked utterly disheartened, as though he had just heard a piece of terrible news. Had something bad happened here, too?
"Is something wrong?" Kya asked worriedly. "Is it something...I did?"
"Dad?" she inquired timidly.
The airbender stared at her for another short moment, but it was long enough that she could see the shocked expression on his face grow even more surprised and upset. Then, without so much as a word, he turned and sprinted away. Momo shot her an apologetic look and alighted from her shoulder, flying swiftly in pursuit of Aang.
"Dad!?" Kya called, her heart sinking. "Dad? Aang, wait!"
And she took off after him.
Kya pushed her legs faster than they had ever moved before. Aang was fast – more so than anyone she had ever met in real life. But she was able to keep him in sight, a remarkable feat considering that she could not remember ever being a good runner before now.
"Dad!" she shouted after him. "Wait, come back! I have so many questions... And I need to find the way out of here! Why are you running away!? Please, come back!"
She probably would have kept chasing him, but for the obstacle that she came across a split second later.
Kya was suddenly aware of an intense heat, and a wall of flames shot up from the ground in front of her, causing her to leap back in shock. If she had been a moment earlier, she could easily have been incinerated! Astounded, she tried to force her feet to cooperate with a proper landing, but they seemed to have lost the grace of the moment before.
Her foot hit a smooth stone as she made contact with the ground, and she slipped. Kya slammed against the ground, her head cracking against the rock. Before she knew what had happened, she blacked out.
Kya sat upright, gasping for breath, her blue eyes wide with terror. She looked around immediately, expecting to see the wall of fire again, but realized with a flash of relief that she was no longer stuck in that bizarre dream world. Instead, she was back in her room, in her own bed.
Exhaling deeply, Kya leaned her head back against the headboard, reassuring herself that it had all been just an especially vivid dream – that none of it was real. The next instant, however, her head began to throb with sharp pain, and she winced. That must have been what caused her to black out in her dream, she supposed. She must have hit it on the bedpost.
Kya reached up to rub the sore spot, but withdrew it at once with a yelp of pain. Her eyes watered with involuntary tears as she examined her palms.
They were covered with burns. The fire had been real.
In a daze and nearly blinded with pain, Kya stood and stumbled out of her bedroom. Thoughts raced through her mind, each as unclear as the next. The fire had been real. Did that mean that the dream had been real, too? But dreams weren't real! What did that mean? Was real even really 'real' anymore? She found that she did not know these things which would have been so simple just days before.
Kya had not had any particular destination in mind when she left her room, but now she found herself standing in the doorway of the kitchen, gasping for air. Her blue eyes swept the room, and she saw Katara sitting at the table, sipping carefully from a mug of steaming tea. She looked up when Kya entered, but she did not appear confused. Rather, she seemed almost...expectant. Had she known that something like this would happen?
"Kya?" she repeated. "What's wrong? Did something hap- ?"
She broke off when she saw Kya's hands. Her eyes grew wide and anxious as she took in the burns, but she stared for only a brief moment before rushing forward and leading her daughter to a chair. Kya sat down, still dazed by everything that had happened in the last few minutes. She barely noticed as Katara bended cool water over the burns and began to heal them.
"Sweetie," Katara said softly, "do you want to tell me what happened?"
Choking back unshed tears, Kya launched into a fast-paced description of what she had experienced in this strange dream. Katara listened attentively, though her eyes never strayed from her work. By the time Kya concluded her tale, the burns were almost completely healed.
"Mom," Kya whimpered, "why is this happening to me? Why are my dreams becoming real? How am I supposed to stop it?"
Katara gave her a pained look, but she clearly had no answer to these questions.
"And if that man is really my dad, why did he run away from me? Why couldn't he bear to look at me? Why did he hurt me, Mom? Is... Is something wrong with me?"
"Oh, Kya," Katara murmured, pulling her into a desperate hug. "No. No, there's nothing wrong with you."
Katara did not move for a long moment. She seemed reluctant to let go, as though she thought that this would be their last hug. Kya was confused. Why was Katara so emotional over this?
"Kya," Katara sighed, pulling away slowly. "There's something you should know. I've meant to tell you this for awhile now... For the past couple of nights, you've been telling me that you've been having dreams about your father... That's not true."
"Whoa, hang on!" Kya interrupted. "If that's not true, then where did I get those burns? And how did I find the arch thing?"
"No, no, I completely believe that you've had the dreams you described," Katara went on, almost reluctantly. "It's just that...you never saw your father."
Kya blinked, shaking her head. There was only one direction this conversation could possibly be headed in. But...no! No, it couldn't be true! It wasn't!
"Kya... Aang isn't your father."
Kya's heart skipped a beat, and she felt her blood run cold through her veins. She could never have imagined... And yet, all of a sudden, everything made sense. There was someone in her life whom she had always looked to – someone who had always kept a careful watch on her, keeping her out of trouble and making sure that she was happy.
Someone who had been a father figure to her.
"It's Zuko," Kya whispered, "isn't it?"
There was a long moment of silence. Katara drew in a deep breath, closing her eyes as though it would make all of this go away. But Kya knew that it wouldn't. Nothing could make this go away.
Kya did not answer. She could not breathe. The world seemed to spin around her, wiping out everything she had ever known and replacing it with something totally different. All this time... All these lies...
"It... It isn't what you think," Katara said, her voice almost frenzied. "I loved Aang, I did! I never stopped loving him. With Zuko... I can't explain it. It was a mistake."
"So..." Kya murmured, "I'm just a mistake, then."
"N-no!" Katara told her, growing more and more desperate by the second. "I didn't mean it like that, Kya! I would never change – "
"SHUT UP!" Kya roared, leaping to her feet. "Everything you ever told me was a lie! Don't lie anymore."
She wanted Katara to say something – anything. But her mother simply sat there, looking miserable. That only made Kya angrier. She wanted a reaction, even if Katara simply denied the sick truth – that her daughter should never have existed.
But there was no reply. Kya stood there a moment longer, her chest heaving as she fought to control her erratic breathing. Wild, raw emotion pulsed through her, and she felt hatred boiling in her blood. She was tired of this. She just wanted the truth.
Shooting one final glare at her mother, she spun on her heel and dashed back up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom.
Kya crashed onto her bed, sobbing freely. She couldn't put what she was feeling to words – she was angry, but, more than anything, she felt unbelievably lonely. She was already afraid to go back to sleep. But now, she was afraid to go back to the life that had been so carefree earlier that same day.
What am I supposed to do!? she thought desperately. How can I ever speak to Mom or Zuko again, after they lied to me for all this time?
She was so tired, but she knew that she could not go back to sleep now. That might mean facing Aang. She would have to find a way to stay awake, even if it meant forcing herself to evade the temptation of rest.
Kya fixed her stare on the wall across from her and prepared to wait out the rest of the long night.
- This chapter contains a reference to the Book Three chapter The Old Masters.
- The title is based on one of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole books because we're totally psyched for the movie!
For the collective works of the author, go here.