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|Stolen Sky Bison|
What happens when a new herd of sky bison is discovered?
February 21, 2012
Stolen Sky Bison
A long morning it had been. All he had talked about with Earth King Kuei and Fire Lord Zuko were plans to build a city where all four, well three, nations could live together in peace. And of course he wanted to build the city, but he was kind of homesick. His new home was the Southern Water Tribe, living with Katara and Sokka. It was cold there, but he put up with it. It was worth it. He got to see Katara's beautiful face every morning and hear Sokka's hilarious jokes; even the jokes that weren't funny still surprisingly made him laugh.
Now he was on Appa, finally on his way home. After refusing to take a ride on Appa, Zuko had taken an air balloon back to the Fire Nation Royal Palace to do his Fire Lord duties, while Earth King Kuei stayed in Ba Sing Se to do his duties. And Aang did his job as the Avatar: Keeping peace and balance in the world. Of course there was peace right now, so he had no worries. Or at least he thought.
There was still that giant problem looming over his head. What would happen to the Air Nomads after his death? As the last Airbender, Aang had to be as cautious as possible, which was pretty hard considering he was Avatar. And what about the Sky Bison; what would happen to them? Only one bison was left, and that was Aang's pet, Appa. With Aang, he could have kids with any other human, but with Appa, he had no chance of keeping his species alive. As for Momo, well, Aang wasn't too worried about him. Momo had after all stayed alive during Aang's one hundred-year absence. It was possible that more flying lemurs lived at the Air Temples. Maybe Momo had a family at the Southern Air Temple. Aang could go and see one day, but for now, the Southern Water Tribe was his only destination.
Aang looked around. It was hot. He hadn't felt this hot since being in the Si Wong Desert. But there was no way he had reached it yet. Looking down, he felt a hint of irony. A vast ocean of sand stood below him. He remembered the terrible memories this place held. How he had lost Appa here, how he went into a rage because of the bison's disappearance, how cruel he was to Katara when she was trying to calm him down. But that was in the past. All was forgiven. Appa was back, Katara was his girlfriend, they made it out of the desert alive; it was now history.
He looked up at the sky, hoping to see clouds. But the sky was as blue as ever, not a hint of fluffy white pillows. There was nothing to look at so Aang began to think of what to name the city. They barely came to conclusions during the meeting. The only thing they agreed on was where it should be located.
They decided on to build where a Fire Nation colony was. It was near Makapu Village, and was on the coast of the Earth Kingdom. It was a random spot, but Zuko chose it simply because it was a Fire Nation colony. Aang and the Earth King saw no better place for it to be, so they approved. And that was it; just the location. Everything else was the design of the city, the population, jobs; they disagreed on all of those. Sometimes Aang would side with Zuko, but the Earth King had his own opinion. They needed to all agree on everything; it would be fair that way. A few hours past noon, they decided to just go home and think about more options. Aang thought they argued over silly things, but said nothing. He would do something, however, if they continued disagreeing on their next meeting, which was during the following week.
There were mountains up ahead. They had just left the Si Wong Desert.
"Maybe we could stop by Gaoling and say hi to Toph," said Aang. "Yip Yip!" He pulled left and Appa began to approach Gaoling. Within a few minutes, Aang could see it, all the houses and the mountains. And then he remembered something.
"Wait a minute... Toph's not here. Yip Yip, buddy."
He pulled right and Appa set of towards the Southern Water Tribe once more. How could Aang have forgotten? Toph was teaching the Dai Li agents to Metalbend back at Ba Sing Se; that is after she straightened them out. It had been a few weeks since he had seen her. Why hadn't he visited her before he left Ba Sing Se? He was only thinking of getting home. Well, he would visit her soon.
There was silence in the air. The clouds had arrived, fluffy as ever. Aang lay down on Appa's head and looked up at the bright blue sky. They all look like koala sheep, both fluffy....That one looks like a lion turtle, he thought. He remembered his meeting with the lion turtle and Energybending. He hadn't used it since taking Ozai's bending away.
That one looks like Bosco. Just...bear. I'll never understand that. Cool, a bison. Several of them. Ah, if only they were real.
Suddenly, there was a roar.
"Yeah, it's nice isn't it buddy? All those clouds. It's beautiful."
Another roar came, and it came from a distance. And another one, followed by another. They were a whole bunch of them now, coming from the ground. Appa even roared.
"What is it, buddy?"
Aang peered over the side of the fluffy bison head and saw quite a sight. His heart skipped a beat as his eyes widened. He was speechless. He wanted to land. He pulled Appa's rope and finally managed to say something.
"Yip Yip, Appa. Down there."
Aang jumped off the second Appa's feet reached the ground. His head looked left and right as he thought of what to do next.
He was surrounded by several sky bison. Not just any sky bison. These were different from Appa and the bison Aang remembered at the Southern Air Temple.
They were similar to Appa, but their markings were different. While they both had arrows on their heads and were both fluffy with white fur, the strips on the tails of these bison were thinner than those on Appa's. And they even had more strips than Appa. Aang looked closely at a nearby one and saw that its ear had brown fur instead of the white on Appa's.
He was breathless. Here they were. A herd of sky bison right in front of him. He looked around and saw that Appa had already begun to make friends. He was talking to two sky bison, roaring.
"Where did they come from?" Aang asked himself out loud. He was confused. How could sky bison come out of nowhere? He began to walk around the herd. There must have been at least fifty of them. He walked up to one and patted its head. It was just as soft as Appa's.
Aang walked on and saw a tiny bison looking up to him. Surrounding the baby were two other bison. He waved at them and continued walking around. What was he going to do next? What should he do with them?
After walking around for a couple more minutes, Aang came to a conclusion. He walked back to Appa, who was still engaged in a conversion with the other two bison.
"Come on, buddy, we have to go." Aang patted his head and looked around once more.
"They must have been here for a while. I think we should just let them be." Appa roared. "Don't worry, Appa. Tomorrow, we'll go tell Zuko about them and then we can stop by here so you can continue talking with your friends." Appa shook his head and roared.
"I'm sorry, buddy, but we have to go." Aang jumped on Appa's head. "Say goodbye, Appa. Bye everyone." He waved at the herd of bison as Appa roared. "Yip Yip!" Appa kicked off the ground and flew into the sky as Aang felt the cool wind hit his face. The Avatar felt guilty for what he had just done; he had taken Appa away from his fellow bison. It was like when the Council of Elders decided to take Aang away from Gyatso. But Appa would be able to see them again. There was no doubt about that.
"Don't worry, Appa, we'll be back tomorrow," reassured Aang. "I promise."
The sun was setting as Appa landed on the in the center of the Southern Water Tribe. Aang jumped off and began to walk through the huts, igloos, and tents as Appa made his way to his hut which he shared with Momo.
Aang saw the igloo that belonged to Katara and walked over to the front of it. He was about to ask if he could come in when someone came walking out and crashed right into Aang, the pair of them hitting the snowy ground.
"Sorry," said Aang, getting to his feet. He looked down and saw who he had crashed with. She had hair loopies, or at least that's what Sokka called them, and blue clothes and brown hair, about sixteen years old. It was clear who it was. "You okay, Katara?" He helped her up.
"Yeah," replied Katara, her eyes closed as she rubbed her head. "I'm okay." She opened her eyes and then brown met the gray. "Aang, you're back." She threw her arms around him, smiling. "I was just coming outside to see when you'd return. How was the meeting?"
"What do you mean?"
"We didn't accomplish anything except where the city was to be located. It's going to be near the Makapu Village."
"Oh yes, Aunt Wu. Good times. Well when's the next meeting?"
"Next week. Hopefully we'll all agree on something." And then he remembered. The bison. "Katara, there's flying bison."
Katara stared in confusion as Aang continued. "On my way back, I heard a roar and then looked down and saw them. A whole new herd of sky bison. And these ones are somewhat different from Appa. You have to see them. Appa and I are going to see Zuko tomorrow and we'll stop by and see the bison. Do you want to come?"
At first Katara said nothing and looked at the blue arrow on his shaved head, as if looking to see if the fall earlier had damaged his brain. Finally she answered, "A herd of sky bison? Out of nowhere? Are you sure, Aang?"
"Yep, I see them with my eyes. And Appa did too. Come on, Katara, come with me tomorrow. You'll be able to see them yourself."
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to go. Sure I'll go, Aang."
Aang smiled. "Where's Sokka?"
Katara pointed at the igloo next to hers.
"Well, I'll see you tomorrow. Good night, Katara."
She kissed him and walked back into her hut while Aang headed for Sokka's hut, a giant smile on his face.
He entered the igloo and saw a teenager with dark brown hair sitting on his bed, bending over something. The room was a decent size. There were two beds, one on the right wall and one on the left. There were pelts on the right side of the room while the left was completely empty of them.
Aang moved towards his bed, Sokka looked up, his mouth full of what looked like seal jerky.
"Hey, Aang," greeted Sokka as he continued to chew on his food. "Have a good trip?"
"Somewhat. The meeting was boring, but there was something rather interesting about the journey back."
Aang kicked off his shoes and fell back on his bed. It sure was a comfy bed. He remembered sleeping on the wool of the koala sheep. Every night when he fell into bed, he always thought of how soft it was.
"What happened?" asked Sokka, finishing his food. "Um... this is tasty."
"Isn't it kind of late to be eating?"
Sokka shook his head. "It's just a snack. And it was amazing."
"Okay, whatever you say."
"So good... Anyway, what were you saying about the trip?"
Aang explained his encounter with the herd of sky bison and afterwards asked Sokka if he want to accompany him on the trip the next day.
"Don't know. I don't really want to go to the palace. I want to go see Suki. It's been several days."
"Well Kyoshi Island isn't too far from here. I'm sure we can drop you off." Sokka nodded his head. "Sounds good." He yawned. "See ya tomorrow, Aang."
He saw the light through his eyelids. But he didn't want to open them. Not yet. He was trying to take in the dream he had had. He finally opened them, smiling. He sat up and looked around. Sokka was still asleep, snoring.
Aang pushed himself up and got ready for the day. He remembered the dream. He was flying with Appa on his way back from the meeting with Zuko and the Earth King when he saw the new herd of sky bison. A whole new herd of flying bison, the only chance the species had of surviving.
He only wished that the journey back would have actually been that interesting. And then his heart swelled with joy as the sudden urge to start jumping around the room hit him.
It was real. All that had had happened. There was a new herd of flying bison out there. The species would survive.
He smiled as he walked out into the cold icy sky. The sun was still rising and the tribe was silent. He would wake Sokka later. Now he wanted to walk around the Southern Water Tribe in peace.
And he did so, looking at all the huts and igloos and tents surrounding him. There was a lot to be done for the Southern Water Tribe. It needed a lot of rebuilding. They were trying to do their best to improve the city, but they had never made big changes. Sure they created some more igloos and huts, and rebuilt the gates, but they needed a lot more Waterbenders if they wanted to get some real work done.
Katara had thought of speaking with the Northern Water Tribe and asking them if they would help their sister tribe by providing supplies and Waterbenders. But that plan was soon forgotten in the mess of the gang still helping the Earth Kingdom to rebuild.
But now he could put the plan into action once more. He would do it soon. Aang stopped and closed his eyes, relaxing. He thought of all the sky bison and the hope they would give to the world. He was debating whether or not he should announce it publicly; others might be curious and try to sneak a peek at them, possibly scaring them off. But they really would give the world hope. These bison represented the chance that the world would one day be back in balance. He'd ask Katara and Zuko for their thoughts on the subject.
He looked up at the sky, where the sun stood high up. He turned around and walked back to the igloo. It was time to eat and he knew that Sokka would be hungry and happy that he woke him.
They had left the Southern Water Tribe a while ago and had just dropped Sokka off at Kyoshi Island. Now they were headed for the Royal Palace. Aang wondered what Zuko's reaction would be to the bison. Happy of what they meant? Confused of their mysterious appearance out of nowhere? He didn't have to wonder much longer for a tall red tower connected with two smaller ones by its sides was in view.
"Yip Yip," said Aang. And the bison flew down toward the palace, enclosed by a wall whose job was to protect the inside from the rest of the Royal Caldera City.
The duo entered the Throne Room where Fire Lord Zuko was peacefully sitting down on the throne, mediating. The Fire Lord had black hair and a burnt across his left eye, given to him by his father.
It was clear that Zuko hadn't heard them enter for he stayed put. Finally Aang opened his mouth. "Hey Zuko."
Zuko's eyes opened, the right more wide than the left. He stood up and greeted his two friends. "Aang, Katara, it's good to see you."
"What were you doing?" questioned Aang as Zuko walked toward them.
"Just mediating. Uncle thinks I should relax more." He paused. "I forgot the tea. Anyway, what brings you two here?"
"You'll never believe it, Zuko, but there are sky bison in the Earth Kingdom," explained Aang. "A whole new herd of them. The sky bison will survive."
Zuko stared at him and then looked to Katara, probably exchanging thoughts of how the Avatar had gone mad. Zuko turned back to Aang and looked him straight in the eye. "Are you okay?"
Aang nodded. "Well obviously you don't believe me. And neither does Katara. So don't we just head over to the field I saw them in? Just watch, they'll be there."
As Appa headed toward the herd of sky bison, and rather enthusiastically, Aang felt a small shock of panic fly through him. What if they bison had gone? What if he had dreamt the whole thing up? Both Zuko and Katara would think that he had lost his mind. And worse, the sky bison's only chance staying on the face of the Earth would be gone, vanished into nonexistence.
But that slipped from his mind as they neared their destination. The bison would be there; safe and sound.
Finally, they reached the area where Aang had seen the herd.
"Yip Yip," he said to Appa. Appa landed onto the soft green grass and the trio jumped off.
All the bison remained. Every single one. Aang turned to see Katara and Zuko's expressions. Just as expected, their mouths were open and their eyes wide. Katara closed her mouth, opened it again and attempted to say something. But nothing escaped her mouth. Instead, she closed it once more.
Zuko began to walk around, eye, his scar-free eye, still wide, and leaned his head forward toward a nearby bison, as if looking to see if it was a machine. He leaned back and turned to face Aang.
He opened his mouth, but closed it again and simply nodded. "You were right, Aang. They are real."
Aang smiled. "I just had to tell you. I felt you needed to know of their existence. And I need to ask you something. You too, Katara." He paused as they both gathered around him. "What do we do with them?"
Zuko stared in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Should we tell the world about them?" said Aang.
Zuko shrugged. "I don't know. Should we? What good would that bring?"
"Hope," explained Aang. "The world will be full of joy to see that the world is slowly returning to peace. But if we do tell them, maybe they might scare off the bison. They'd probably want to see what they look like and see if they actually exist, but might scare them away."
Both Zuko and Katara pondered about this for a moment. Finally Katara spoke. "I think we should just let them be. There'll be other signs to show to the world that balance is returning to the four nations. But this isn't it." She gestured to the bison. "They've lived here for who knows how long. We shouldn't disturb them." Aang looked around and his eyes fell on Appa. "What about Appa? I want him to be with his own kind. But how will we get around?"
"Maybe you could bring Appa here every now and then," suggested Katara.
"No, it's not going to work. Appa want to live among them, not be a guest," said Aang.
"Then I don't know, Aang."
Aang stared at Katara, at Appa, at the bison, and at Zuko. Why wasn't he saying anything? Maybe he's been thinking about it in his head. Or maybe he's thinking of what to do with bison.
But Aang had his own dilemma. What would he do now? He couldn't possibly take Appa away from his own kind, but he couldn't bother these bison. Aang sighed. "Why don't we just...think about it for a while? Right now, we should get going."
The trio headed for Appa and jumped on him. Aang patted his fluffy white head.
"Come on, buddy. Time to go. Yip Yip."
Appa groaned and Aang waited to feel the wind hit his face. But it didn't come. Instead Appa's feet lay planted on the ground.
"Come on, buddy, I know you want to stay, but we have to go. Yip Yip."
Still Appa stood glued to the grass.
"Appa, come on. We have to go. Yip Yip!"
But Appa wouldn't listen to Aang. Appa looked around at the other bison. Aang really wanted to let Appa stay, but he couldn't. They had to take Zuko back to the palace and then head for the South Pole. He had left his gilder at home so he couldn't fly his friends to their destinations and even if he didn't, it was much too far for him to reach them with only his glider.
"Appa, I know you want to stay, but we really have to go. We can't walk to the Fire Nation or the South Pole."
"What if we take a ship, Aang?" suggested Zuko.
The Avatar shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe. But I just... I can't leave Appa."
He felt selfish right now. Of course they could take a boat to their respective homes, but he just couldn't leave Appa. He didn't want to lose him again, not after the rage he went into when Appa was stolen. He hated that feeling, never wanted to feel it again. Appa had been with him through all this time, with him during his hundred-year stay in the iceberg. He just couldn't let him go. "Appa, come on. Yip Yip, Appa!"
He had angered Appa for the bison had just issued a loud roar, silencing the entire area, all bison eyes on him.
Aang cautiously place his hand on Appa's head and patted his slowly. He spoke to him in a quite calm voice. "Buddy, I know you want to stay. And I wish I could let you go. But...it's complicated right now. There's an issue. But, I promise that we'll see these bison again. I promise, buddy."
Aang waited a few more moments before Appa decided to finally kick off the ground and head back to the palace. Katara and Zuko were talking with each other, while Aang looked down to the white fur on his bison, ashamed of his actions.
Two days. Aang stared up at the roof of his and Sokka's igloo. Sokka had left to go hunting while Aang decided to stay in for a while. He lay in bed, asking himself why he was so selfish two days ago. He had tried avoiding the subject all day yesterday, but, after feeding Appa dinner and seeing that the bison was still partially angry at him, he decided to question himself until he came to a conclusion.
Why did he do that? His buddy, Appa. Aang just took him away from his only chance at finding love and starting a family. All the bison are going to think of him as Appa, the sheltered sky bison. And it's all Aang's fault.
Hmm..how's about instead of dwelling on this subject for an entire day, you just take Appa to the herd of bison, said a voice inside his head. Simple as that. Nothing to worry about. Everything will be perfect.
I don't know. I can't, answered Aang.
And why is that?
I, I can't lose Appa again. I... I just can't do it. I'm not letting him go.
Look, Aang. Would you rather have Appa be angry at you for his entire life? Remember what Sister Iio said? "A sky bison is a companion for life."
Exactly! A companion is someone you spend a lot of time with. And I can't do that with Appa gone. And I once told Appa this, "I guess this means we'll always be together." And I stand by it.
Aang, listen up. Think of what the Council of Elders did to you. How they wanted to take you away from Gyasto? I know. How they "wanted to take away everything I knew and everyone I loved," as you once said? Stop. Just don't. Think, Aang! Your reasons are selfish. Appa needs to be with his own kind. He needs a family. Just, think about that, Aang. Appa is your friend, but would you rather have him be a happy bison and still be your friend or have him be angered at the fact that you wouldn't let him live with his own kind.
After much thought and consideration, Aang knew what he was the right thing to do. He got up, grabbed his staff, and headed for the door.
It was freezing outside, as usual. He made his way to Appa and Momo's hut. And he suddenly wondered if Katara or Sokka had fed them earlier in the day, because from the looks of the sun, it seemed to be evening. He felt guilt run through him, thinking of what a terrible owner he was; not feeding his bison and lemur. He was just so caught up in thought about Appa and what he was going to do with him.
He entered the large wooden hut. Inside was Appa lying on his stomach next to a pile of hay while a black and white lemur stood on Appa's back. Appa's saddle lay in the corner of the hut; Aang usually took it off Appa whenever the trip or adventure was finished so as to not bother the bison.
He walked to Appa, who quietly growled at Aang, but still leaned his head forward so the Avatar could pet it. And did so as he spoke to the bison. "Hey there, Appa. I, well, I was thinking that maybe... What I mean is that my actions, what I did, it was selfish. And I was hurting you. I've been thinking. I'm going to let you go, buddy."
Appa immediately stood up, causing Momo, the flying lemur to perched himself on Aang's right shoulder. Appa stared right into Aang's eyes, the big black ones meeting the gray ones.
"I mean it, buddy. I'm taking you right now. To your rightful home." Aang smiled at Appa as the bison's large pink tongue met Aang's face.
"Aang?" said a kind voice from behind him. Aang turned around to find himself in front of Katara, with her blue parka and caring expression. "I haven't seen you around all day. Are you okay?" Aang nodded. "What are you doing?"
"I'm taking Appa to the herd of sky bison."
"I'm letting him stay there."
"What?" Katara paused. "Are you sure?"
"Definitely. I've been thinking about it all day. He belongs with them, with his kind. I don't want to take his happiness away from him, even if it means that I'll see him less often."
"Okay." She paused again. "But how will you get around?"
"Oh." He hadn't thought of this. Appa was his transportation method. "I, well, I'll, er, take a boat. Or an air balloon, as I soon as I get one. And I still I have my glider."
"Okay, if that's what you want." She looked down at the wooden floor, a sad expression filling her face.
"It's just that, well. Appa. I'm glad you're doing this for Appa, but I just – I'll miss him."
He wanted to say "Me too, Katara," but when he tried, nothing came out except an odd mumble. He Airbended the saddle onto Appa's back and took him outside. He, Katara and Momo jumped on to the bison and a "Yip Yip" followed.
As the cold air hit his face, Katara's words filled his mind. "I'll miss him." Me too, Katara.
Appa rejoiced upon seeing his fellow bison and, after the trio jumped off him, walked toward the others and began to speak with each other. Or it at least it sounded like it. It was hard to tell when all they did was roar at each.
Still, Aang was happy to see Appa interacting with other bison after over a hundred years of no fellow species around.
Aang looked around. Something was off. He couldn't shake off the feeling that some bison were missing. Probably eating grass around the area. Behind other bison. This was the conclusion he came to.
His eyes returned to Appa as he saw the latter walk over to what seemed to be a female bison. The two began roaring at each. A smile spread across Aang's face.
It was time to leave. He wanted to give Appa the time he deserved with these bison. He gave his staff to Katara and walked over to Appa who was still engaged in a conversion with the female bison.
"Um, hey there, buddy," said Aang. "It's time for me to go."
Appa roared at the female bison and turned to face Aang. Appa had a sad look on his face.
"Well, I guess this is good bye, Appa. I'll visit as often as I can." He felt his eyes beginning to water. Aang reached out to touch Appa's arrow, smiling. "Thanks for everything."
The bison began to lick Aang again, this time in a soft good bye-like way. Aang's hands wrapped around Appa's furry head. He whispered to the bison. "I'll miss you, buddy."
Aang's eyes met Appa's. Aang's hand waved at the bison and then the former walked towards his girlfriend. Katara handed him his staff back. Aang held the staff to his chest. He noticed that Momo was no longer on Katara's shoulder. He looked around and saw the lemur speaking with Appa, probably saying their good byes. Momo hugged Appa's head and chirped. He flew back to Aang and Katara waited on the ground, looking up to Aang and Katara.
"I'm going to go say bye to Appa, Aang." Katara walked towards the bison and bade him a farewell as well as a hug.
Aang stared at Momo as Katara made her way back to the two. Aang had forgotten what to do next. Suddenly his eyes fell upon the staff and he held it out arm's length. Two blue wings and tail fin appeared on the staff. Aang held the glider behind his back.
"Gaoling?" asked Katara.
Aang nodded. Katara hugged Aang's waist and waited. Momo had jumped off Katara's shoulder and was now sitting on the ground, looking up to Aang and Katara.
Aang bent his knees. He couldn't help but look back; his head turned as much as it could. Appa stood there, looking at him with sadness across his face. He softly roared at Aang.
Tears started to fill Aang's eyes. I guess this means we'll always be together. Tears ran down his cheek. He whispered, "Good bye, Appa." One last look at the bison and it seemed that he too was shedding tears; Aang couldn't take it anymore.
He flew up into the air with Momo flying at his side. To Gaoling. And he flew on and never looked back.
They had flown to Gaoling and from there asked for a ride to the coast of the Earth Kingdom. There, they boarded a boat to the Southern Water Tribe. Aang was silent the entire trip, thinking of Appa. Appa. His fluffy white fur. His loud roar. His tongue licking him. Appa.
No matter how hard he tried to avoid thinking of the bison, Appa was everywhere. The clouds, the water, the dirt, the rocks, the ice. Everything was Appa. Aang decided to close his eyes and think about his decision.
It was the right thing to do, he told himself. I know it was. It was for the best. Appa's happy now. And that's all that matters.
After what seemed like days, they reached the coast of the South Pole and, after jumping off the boat and thanking the captain, they walked to the Southern Water Tribe where they greeted by a frantic Sokka.
"Where were you? You just left like that. What if I was in trouble? And I was in trouble. The seal jerky was stolen and I was eaten by it."
"What?" asked Katara. "Sokka, did you find some kind of cactus juice out here?"
"Oh no. No cactus juice for me anymore." Silence. "So, it was you." He was pointing at Momo. "You left without telling me. And you stole the seal jerky and ate me."
"Rotten penguin meat?"
"What? You crazy, Katara? Penguin meat, I don't eat meat. Veggies for me, just like Aang."
Aang and Katara stared at Sokka, waiting for his next words.
"What?" said Sokka. He paused. "Fine, I was joking around. I was, no wait, am angry at you two – fine, three, happy, Momo – for just leaving without telling me."
"I'm sorry, Sokka," apologized Aang. "It was my fault. I was wrapped up in what to do with Appa that I forgot to tell you."
"What do you mean wrapped up with Appa?"
Aang explained of the problem he faced, or had faced; how Appa wanted to stay with the other bison, how Aang had taken him to his rightful home. Afterward, Sokka said, "And I didn't get to say good bye."
"It's okay, Aang. After all, we are going to visit Appa every now and then so I can still see him." He smiled. "Oh, I just remembered, Aang, a message hawk arrived for you not too long ago. It's on your bed."
Aang nodded. "Okay, I'll be back."
He headed toward his hut where a scroll of parchment waited on his pillow. He opened it and read:
Zuko here. I've got bad news. I'm in one of the colonies near the Si Wong Desert. I received word yesterday that there was a problem happening here. So I came here to find out. And I know what it is. Early this morning, people were yelling at the guards outside the house I'm staying in. I heard the noise and went outside to see what the cause was. People were yelling at me. I remember one saying, "Oh, so they can sell their fur and make a decent profit, but we aren't even allowed to know about it. My family needs food. Well unfortunately for you, we found out and even better the bison aren't far from here." And then the woman turned around and started a chant. "Bison fur, bison horns, bison meat, bison feet." Apparently, a merchant arrived sometime in the morning and was selling clothes made of bison fur and bison meat. He even told them where they were. Who knows why.
But anyway, they're killing them. I don't know how they found out, but they know. You'll have to go to the bison's location. I have to stay and calm these people down. Hopefully I can convince them that they've been lied to, and that the bison don't exist before they head out to find them. You have to change the bison's location. Find somewhere where they won't be bothered. This might be our last chance to achieve total world peace.
Aang looked up as his mind raced. They found out. How? This is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Good thing it was decided to not announce their existence. I can't believe people would actually kill these bison. The only herd of bison left. Or at least, that's what I think.
Suddenly, his heart stopped as he remembered something. His eyes widened. He dropped the scroll and looked around for it. It was on the table; a white whistle shaped like a bison. He'd need it to call Appa. He pocketed it and ran outside where Katara and Sokka stood waiting.
"Appa!" said Aang. "They're killing them! The bison. We have to hurry! What if Appa –" His mouth went dry.
Katara seemed to understand, because she replied with "Let's go. Come on, we've gotta hurry."
The four of them ran back to the coast of the South Pole where conveniently enough, the wooden boat stood in the water. The boat was a simple small brown boat with a green sail and steering wheel. It looked rather old with several bits of wooden chipped off, but it still did its job properly, at least according to their last trip on it. An elderly man with white hair, black eyes, a pointed noise, and a black captain hat sat on a brown wooden barrel, his back facing them. He must have heard their footsteps for he turned around to face the gang as they touched the side of the boat.
"Back again, are you?" he asked.
"Yes. We need you to get us back to the Earth Kingdom," said Katara.
"Back to the Earth Kingdom, eh? Sure, why not. Let me just finish arranging a few things and we can get going."
Aang looked around and saw a few barrels of what was probably filled with food or water lying around the ground.
"But we have to get going. Now! It's important." Aang looked him straight in the eye. "I've an idea. Why don't we help you arrange whatever you'd like while you take us to the Earth Kingdom?"
"I guess that'd work. I am tired, after all. Must be all those years of working on this thing. Anyway, hop on. Let's get moving."
Within seconds, the boat was moving north-east. The captain stood on the platform of the boat, steering the green wheel. Aang walked up the stairs to the platform. Something was off about this boat.
"Don't you have a crew?" He was wondering why he hadn't noticed this last time he was on here. Probably too busy thinking about Appa. Appa. He was in danger.
Just calm down, Aang. Everything will be okay. Right?'
Aang nodded, and even though the captain threw him a puzzled look, he only answered the Avatar's question.
"Well, who would want to work for me on this damaged boat? No, everyone would choose a job elsewhere, on some other boat or ship. I used to have a crew, but then the storm came. Around a year or two ago. We were around the seedy merchants pier when some huge storm hit. Waves, huge waves. And rain, pouring down upon us. We managed to survive it, but we lost a crew member and some of the boat was destroyed.
"Afterward, I had it fixed up, or as much as it could get fixed. Some cracks and chips remain as you can see, but it should still run well enough for another while. Anyway, the remaining crew members, there weren't many I can tell you that, left. Originally four, only three after the storm. So yeah, that's that. I still use this boat cause I have to earn my money and I need it to get to places I need to go. Only wish it were faster. Still thanks for choosing my boat to carry you back and forth. I appreciate it. Not many people choose me anymore. Rather use a faster, larger boat or ship. I'm running out of money and can't seem to find another job. Again, thanks."
"Anytime. I don't know why we chose your boat, but I'm glad we did." Aang smiled at the man. He was starting to grow fond of him and only wished that he could help him by giving him another boat or something for him to travel around.
His story had taken Aang's mind off Appa and the other bison, but now the issue had returned to his brain and was haunting him with several images of Appa being stabbed with a sword or knife or something other weapon. Or being captured with a net and killed elsewhere.
He wished the boat would travel a billion times faster or that he could run on water. Maybe he could, that is if he split the water into two like Katara had done when they were crossing the Serpents Pass. After all, Airbenders were fast runners, using the air and wind to increase their speed.
Oh well, he felt rather dizzy at the images of Appa being hurt and tortured that he was glad that he didn't have to run. He looked down at Sokka and Katara who were moving around the barrels, placing them into an appropriate location. He had forgotten the agreement they had. He went down to join the two siblings while he tried to clear his head of his worries.
And then it hit him. He knew how the bison had been discovered. Appa's roar. People nearby must have heard it, and curiosity got the best of them. They had followed the noise. And it was all his fault. If he hadn't been selfish and let Appa stay, none of this would've been happening.
They had reached the coast of the Earth Kingdom, thanked the captain, and got a ride to Gaoling. And from there, they flew to the bison's location, with difficulty, given the combined weight of the three of them. Still, they managed to make it there in one piece.
As they flew over, they saw it. The bison. Being trapped in nets and a few being killed right on the spot. There were several people there, about ten. Capturing these innocent bison. Anger filled Aang's body.
He flew down to the ground and Airbended the wings of his glider into the staff. He ran over to a trio of people throwing a net over a bison. He pushed his left hand toward them and a blast of air ran out it, knocking down the poachers.
"What are you doing!?" yelled Aang. "These are the last bison on Earth! And you're killing them for money!"
"Who are you?" one of the fallen people asked. A middle aged man, his eyes filled with hunger, his clothes worn out.
"Avatar Aang," said Sokka as he and his sister walked up next to Aang, looking down at the three people.
"Yeah, well too bad." It was the same man speaking. "We need money. And this is the only way to make a real profit. People will pay up to gold pieces for these things' fur."
"Things!?" Aang was enraged. "Get out! And leave these bison alone."
"Yeah, as if." The same man jumped to his feet and levitated a nearby boulder into the air. He flung it at Aang.
The Avatar produced an air shield and sent the boulder flying to his left. He looked back at the man. The three people had stood up and were now sending boulders at his trio; Momo seemed to have flown overhead.
Aang, Katara and Sokka were dodging the boulders when Aang heard a roar behind him. Suddenly it stopped. And it was clear that another bison had just been killed. He remembered Appa. Where is he?
He blasted the three of their feet and turned around and began searching for Appa. Where are you, Appa? I know you're here.
"Aang!" He heard Katara's voice and the sound of water splashing against a rock. He had to find Appa. As he looked for him, he blasted several of the other poachers off their feet. He had been searching for what seemed like hours, but no sign of Appa.
You're here. I know it. You're just hiding. From the poachers. To survive. But he knew that Appa would fight these people off at all costs. He would Airbend them away, hit them with his tail, scare them away with his mighty roar. But no Appa.
He was wasting time. Because of him, several more bison were dead. And more were dying now. He had to act. Fast.
Katara and Sokka seemed to have knocked out the trio of poachers they faced earlier. Aang saw their unconscious bodies as he ran around looking for his girlfriend and her brother, as well as the remaining seven poachers. He came across two of them and created a mini tornado, blasting them aside. They lay unconscious as he ran past them.
He saw Sokka, with his boomerang and sword, taking on two of the poachers. One lay on the ground. Nearby, Katara was taking on two as well. Another air blast from Aang left one of Sokka's poachers on the ground. Aang left to help Katara with hers, leaving Sokka to have a chance to knock out his remaining one.
Katara smacked one across the face with a water whip, bringing back a memory in Aang's head. The smacked poacher fell to the ground face first. With little water to work with, Katara, using her water skin as resource, hit the final poacher with another water whip, leaving him to fall to the grass. But he stood up once more and ran at Katara. Suddenly, a large gust of wind knocked him down to the ground.
"What was that?"
Sokka made his way over to them as the three of them looked in the direction of the wind. Nothing came. Nothing happened.
All of a sudden, tears fell from Aang's eyes as he remembered Appa. Was it his fault, Aang's? Or was it Appa's fault that led to his end? Katara's arm's wrapped around him. His eyes scanned the area, his eyes falling onto about thirty to forty bison. Originally, there were about fifty. Fifteen or so were dead. But it could've been worse.
His eyes fell on something that made his mouth widen. It stood where the gust of wind had come from. A bison, with arrows different than those of the others. Its eyes looked into his. It roared softly. Katara released him and now his feet were running toward the bison. Toward Appa.
"Appa!" said Aang, hugging the bison. It was Lake Laogai all over again. Appa. Alive. His heart swelled with joy. So much that he felt it would burst any second now. "I missed you, buddy."
Katara and Sokka, and even Momo, made their way over to Appa and Aang found himself being part of a group hug.
After several "I can't believe it," "I'm so happy," and "Appa!" Sokka questioned what they were to do with the remaining bison.
"Well they can't stay here anymore. People will return to hunt them and kill them," said Aang.
"So," began Sokka. "What we need to do is relocate them."
"But where?" asked Aang.
"What about the Southern Air Temple," said Katara. "It's empty, there's food there, as proven by Momo, and no one can reach it."
"What about Earthbenders? Can't they make their way up there?" asked Aang.
"Maybe, but they won't have a reason to. We're not telling anyone about this," explained Katara.
"And the villagers?" questioned Aang.
"What villagers?" said Katara.
Aang realized that he had never told them exactly what Zuko's message contained. He explained everything while they helped free the bison trapped in the nets, and afterward, Katara spoke. "Simple, the villagers will come to this area, see that there's no flying bison here, think they were lied to, and then leave."
It was that simple. But Sokka asked one more question. "But how are we going to get the bison to the temple?"
"The bison whistle." Aang remembered that he had had it. He took the white whistle out from his pocket and held it up. "This. Appa follows this, as did the other animals back in Ba Sing Se."
"What do you mean?" asked Katara.
"Some other time. I'm sure these bison will follow it." Aang held his glider at arm's length and the blue wings flung out. "You guys get on Appa. I'll fly on my glider. I figure if I blow this whistle on top of him, Appa might follow it and go in circles. Who knows? Better this way."
Katara, Sokka and Momo sat on Appa's saddle. Aang flew into the air and held the whistle to his mouth. He blew into it and immediately Appa flew up into the sky, followed by the other bison. Aang began flying west to the Southern Air Temple, blowing the whistling every few minutes to keep the bison on his trail.
The bison. Together. As one. In peace. The temple was now filled with the sound of feet and tails thumping on the ground and several roars, just like before the war.
Momo had shown the gang where he had gotten his food last time he was here, and the gang showed the bison. Aang and Katara planted several other plants using the seeds from the already existing ones. Meanwhile, Sokka was attempting to teach the bison how to defend themselves.
"Look at Appa," he said. "I'm sure he tried hard to protect you all from the mean ugly poachers. Isn't that right, buddy." Appa roared. "Yes, Appa. Everyone pay attention to Appa and be inspired by his ways."
By late afternoon, Aang, Katara, Sokka and Momo were ready to leave. But one problem remained. How would they get home?
"Well, Appa," began Aang. "I guess this is good bye. Again." Aang smiled as Appa licked his face.
"But, Aang. How are we going to get home?"
"Don't worry, Sokka. Katara and I thought that out. We want to leave Appa here so he can be around his own kind, as I've said before. But we were thinking of getting another bison."
Sokka stared in confusion. "Another bison? Really? Aang, that would still bring up the problem that we had or have with Appa. We're taking a bison from its home?"
"Hear me out, Sokka. We could do the same thing that we did with Appa," explained Aang. "Take the bison for about two or three years and then bring it back so it can have family. We could do this for several years until the bison's population has returned to a safe enough size. Then, if Appa wants, we could fly with him."
Appa roared and nodded, smiling.
"Sounds like a plan, I guess," said Sokka. "But wouldn't we be taking Appa away from his family?"
"We could take both him and his wife. Katara and I could take care of them. And their children will mostly be grown up by that time so they'll be on their own."
Aang had one more idea on his mind. He told Sokka and Katara to each take a bison. Aang jumped onto his. He waved good bye to the bison and Appa, saying that he'd be back tomorrow. He shook the reins and they were off. But not to the Southern Water Tribe. No, not yet. Where are we going? That's what Katara and Sokka kept asking, but Aang smiled and remained silent.
Down there. In the boat. Shaking the reins again, Aang's bison flew down, followed by the other two. He told Katara to give the captain her bison. His new mode of transportation. People would pay up some real money for a ride on such a fast bison... or machine.
"But won't they wonder where I got it? Or maybe try to steal it," asked the captain.
"Maybe," began Aang. "Just say it's a flying machine. People will stay pay because, one, they get to fly to their destination, and two, they get to reach in a short period of time. It'll be perfect."
"Well, that's really nice of you, Avatar Aang. I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything. Thanks for the ride." Aang smiled.
Katara jumped onto Aang's bison while Sokka sat on his.
"What are we going to do with this one?" asked Sokka.
"It's for you," said Aang. "So can you travel to Kyoshi Island when you'd like. And so you can visit the Mechanist to help with those car and motorcycle plans of his. And go where you'd like."
Sokka smiled from ear to ear. "Thanks, Aang."
They flew to the Southern Water Tribe and the next day, Aang gave another bison to Zuko, so he could travel to his location faster. Faster than his air balloon.
Since he felt that he and Katara could share one since they always travel together, that was all for the bison giveaways. The three people he gave a bison to followed the same rules he did; returning the bison to their home after two to three years.
When giving the bison to him, Zuko informed Aang that the villagers in the colony he was staying left the village to look for the bison, even though Zuko told them not to. And the day after, they had returned, grumbling about how that merchant had lied to get more money off the fur.
All was well. The bison were together in one piece, peacefully. Aang still visited Appa every week or so, and he still had a way of getting around, as well as making a new bison friend. He and Katara simply named their bison Blue. Aang thought it was a weird name, but as the female bison lived on near the blue ocean, he approved of it.
And Sokka decided to name his bison, also a female, Yue. Of course this slightly angered Suki for a while but eventually she grew to love her too.
And even more great news happened a few months later. There was a new species called the ring-tailed winged-lemur, closely related to the flying lemurs. They were found at the Southern Air Temple, where they continued to live alongside the other bison.
Seriously, where are all these new species and herds coming from? Aang asked himself several times. But deep down, he knew it didn't matter. The flying bison were alive and, while the original winged lemurs would most likely go extinct, the new ring-tailed winged-lemur would take their place. Of course, it all depended on which type winged lemur Momo's children were. But all of this meant one thing.
The world had taken a shortcut on the road to recovery.
- Sokka eating the seal jerky and accusing Momo of stealing it is reference to the case of the missing seal jerky from "Avatar Day."
- Katara saying "Rotten penguin meat?" is a reference to when Sokka ate the "goo" off the wall of the buzzard wasp cave and said it tasted like rotten penguin meat in "The Desert."
- The storm the captain was talking about is the same one shown in "The Storm."
- Aang thinking Blue is a weird name is a reference to how the show is Asian inspired and uses many Asian names or words to use as names.
- Zuko writing "Zuko here" in his letter to Aang is a reference to the former saying "Hello, Zuko here" in "The Western Air Temple."
- The line "Katara smacked one across the face with a water whip, bringing back a memory in Aang's head" is a reference to when Katara did exactly the same thing to Long Feng in " ," a chapter from " ."
Wow, this is long. Twenty pages. Longer than any chapter I've ever written. But, I really enjoyed writing this. This one-shot was posted on February 21, 2012 in honor of Avatar: The Last Airbender's seventh birthday/anniversary of when the first two episodes first aired on Nickelodeon.
Originally, this one-shot was going to focus more on the "Stolen Sky Bison" part, but I wanted to add more depth to it, so the Aang-being-selfish problem was introduced. Still, I think it's an appropriate title.
This one-shot is kind of in canon with "Around the World (Again)," (as shown in Air Temple Island) but at the same time, it also bridges ATLA and Legend of Korra, minus a few little details that are from AtWA (Ex, Toph straightening out the Dai Li)when Appa was with Aang and Katara at
For the collective works of the author, go here.