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|More from AtkaSura||Tragedy||PG 13||None|
|Survivors of the Air Nomad Genocide: Chapter 1|
A lone Water Tribesman slowly trudges through the snow, his figure a dark speck amid the barren expanse of frozen wasteland. Snowflakes cling to his parka's fur trim and catch on his short, scraggly beard, but he pays them no heed. He supports his weight with his spear, burdened by more than the seal carcass slung over his shoulder. Night was fast approaching. Conditions were steadily worsening. If he didn't arrive home soon, he'd be caught in a blizzard with no hope of shelter. Just like her. Just like Sura. Atka's steady steps faltered. The blinding veil of snow before his eyes was no longer reality, but a memory.
Atka struggled to take another step forward against the gale. Wind buffeted his body, relentlessly beating back every movement he made. Snow swirled violently around him, stinging any exposed skin. He raised his arm and lowered his head in a futile attempt at shielding his face.
"Sura! Where are you?! Answer me!"
The ground beneath his feet suddenly gave way, sending Atka tumbling down a snowbank. Disoriented, he fought to stand as he took in his surroundings. He no longer knew which direction was home. Panic crept through Atka's body as he desperately tried to regain his bearings. He hadn't ventured far into the storm, home had to be somewhere nearby. Then, he saw it. The slightest shimmer of light snuffed out by the blizzard. Home. Atka froze in place, torn between his sister's certain death and his own survival. He could easily turn back now; give up his search for the safety of the igloo. Atka made one last call, his voice drowned by the wind's deafening roar.
Atka snapped back to reality. His racing heart beat rapidly with newfound panic sparked by the memory. Nothing looked familiar. Terrain he had crossed thousands of times before appeared foreign to his clouded mind. No, he couldn't afford to think like that. Not now. Atka pushed the painful memory aside, instead focusing on the warm fire and hot meal that awaited his return. Those comforting thoughts chased the cold away, until at last he spotted the small igloo he called home. Entering the igloo with a sigh of relief, Atka cast aside his gear and began to stoke the fire. He prepped a pot of stew and set it in the now roaring flames to simmer. Exhausted, he basked in the heat, embracing the much-needed warmth.
Tired, so very tired. He couldn't fight it any longer. Atka closed his eyes. He never dreams, not since Sura's death. Only nightmares. Consciousness melded with darkness, slowly slipping away, pulled into the realm of twisted realities. He saw her; Sura. Curled up in the snow, shivering and scared, tears frozen against her cheeks. Akta reached out to comfort her. Suddenly, Sura grabbed hold of his wrist. Her icy grip dug deep into his skin. Her eyes snapped open, glazed and lifeless, staring into his soul.
"You didn't save me."
Atka woke with a start, heart pounding in his chest. A cold sweat drenched his clothes. With a soft, defeated moan, Atka buried his head in his hands. Outside, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. He could hear the wind's low, empty howl rising and falling in pitch as it passed over the entryway. Atka rolled over and stared into the fire pit's dancing flames. This wasn't his first nightmare, and it would not be his last. Atka sighed heavily and turned toward the entryway. He looked out into the storm beyond and felt an irresistible urge to step outside. Hoping to clear his troubled mind, Atka donned his parka and stepped out into the unforgiving blizzard. As a blast of cold air struck his face, Atka breathed a sigh of relief. He leaned against the igloo and slid down its wall until he was sitting with his knees tucked to his chest. Gazing into the darkness, Atka soon lost himself to his thoughts.
Inevitably, his thoughts turned to Sura. Carefully removing his gloves, Atka closed his eyes and plunged his hands into the snow. He wanted to feel her pain. As his hands grew numb with the biting cold, Atka thought, "This is what she felt, alone and exposed, slowly succumbing to death." When the pain became unbearable, Atka opened his eyes and withdrew his hands. Sura didn't have that luxury. Atka stood and moved to enter the igloo, but stopped. Something was wrong. A figure stood at the edge of his vision, shrouded by the storm. Wolves? No, it looked human. It looked like his sister. A rush of emotion coursed through Atka. She couldn't be alive, not after all these years. He was still dreaming, it was the only explanation. Sura beckoned to him, as if she wanted him to follow. Suddenly, Atka didn't care about the storm. He ran toward his sister, but she vanished as soon as he reached out to hold her. A wave of confusion and despair washed over Atka, she had seemed so real.
The faint sound of a woman sobbing caught Atka's ears. He strained to discern it from the wind, determined to find his sister. Unable to accept that she had simply disappeared, he began to walk in the direction she had appeared. He ventured further into the storm, the distance from home steadily growing. Finally, he saw her. Kneeling in the snow, gently caressing something on the ground in front of her. As he drew near, Atka saw that she was weeping. Then, he realized why. The form she knelt beside was a body. Once again, Sura vanished. Atka took her place.
It was a girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen. Facedown in the snow, she was dressed in nothing but a tattered sarashi, her skin exposed to the harsh cold. Severe burns covered her entire body, an uncommon injury in these frozen lands. Beneath the ash and grime, partially hidden by swaths of blistered skin, Atka could make out the distinct blue markings of an airbender tattoo. Strange, the nearest temple was days away. Considering she wasn't completely buried in snow, she couldn't have been lying there for more than a few minutes. Atka immediately checked the girl's vitals, expecting the worst. She was still alive, but only just. Ignoring the cold, Atka tore off his parka and wrapped it around the girl. He gently picked her up and rushed back home.
The girl began to shiver violently in Atka's arms as soon as the warmth of his fireplace washed over her. Taking careful note of her burns, Atka gingerly laid the girl on a bedroll close to the fire's edge. He quickly gathered up several empty flasks and poured what remained of his heated stew into them. Atka then wrapped the flasks with cloth, pressing the warm bundles firmly against the girl's skin before wrapping her tight with blankets. Her burns would have to wait. He was no healer, and the nearest village was hours away. She was in no condition to travel. Even then, the scarring would be irreparable. The best Atka could do now was bandage the wounds and wait.
Atka silently questioned whatever wretched circumstances lead her to wander the arctic plains in little more than her underclothes. When, if, the poor girl ever woke, she would need a fresh change of clothes. He aimlessly dug around the igloo for something suitable, but found nothing close to her size. As he rooted through a musty pile of old clothing, his hand brushed against a soft, blue hooded parka; a remnant of the past he so desperately tried to bury. Atka ran his fingers along the felted cloth. The parka felt unnaturally heavy in his hands, weighted by a flood of fond memories, guilt, and regret. Vestigial moments of a happier time, lost in a sea of misery. Hesitating briefly, Atka lifted the old parka from its resting place and set it beside the girl.
The sarashi worn by Jin would be similar in appearance to Katara's. And no, I'm not putting the female in her underwear just 'cuz. The attack happened at night, she wouldn't have been wearing full Air Nomad garb.
I'm not happy with the description of Atka's nightmare (at the end, two sentences begin with 'her' in a row; a big no-no). I've been wanting to polish it with a more vivid narrative for the longest time, but I swear every time I touch a keyboard my mind goes blank.
For the collective works of the author, go here.