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|The Boy in the Iceberg|
In the year 100 AG, Katara, princess of the Southern Water Tribe, discovers a peculiar looking iceberg. She brings it to the shore, melts the ice and discovers inside a twelve-year-old boy dressed in Air Nomad clothing. He introduces himself as Aang, and as he is an Airbender Katara comes to the conclusion that he is the Avatar. They begin to talk, Katara filling Aang in on what he has missed for the past century. She tells him the government-approved version of the past 100 years: The Earth Kingdom taking over the world, or trying, the Fire-Water union as a result, and the Airbending Avatar destined to save them all. He asks her to go penguin-sledding with him.
The sun was setting on the South Pole, and Katara was enjoying the view. The warm colors of the sun and sky were a sharp contrast to the ice and ocean. As she walked along the island's edge, she suddenly noticed an iceberg in the water near the shore. Granted, there were plenty of icebergs, but this one caught Katara's attention. Rather than a shapeless block of ice with sharp angles and edges, this iceberg was an almost perfect sphere. It also was a distinctive light blue rather than the others' nearly transparent white.
"Strange," she said. Katara stepped to the island's edge and drew her arms slowly downward. The iceberg moved towards the shore, and when it came to a stop a few feet away, she could not restrain a gasp. Inside the iceberg was the silhouette of a boy, with his legs crossed and fists together. Oddly, there were also glowing arrows on his forehead and the backs of his hands.
Katara began to make more rapid motions with her hands to the left and right; the iceberg started melting. After a minute, a burst of cold air came out of the iceberg, and she realized it was really just a shell of ice. Soon she could step into it and grab the boy's wrist.
"Hello? Kid?" He seemed to be unconscious. Katara grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. This seemed to rouse the boy, as he stirred slightly and opened his eyes. At the same time, the arrows on his body ceased glowing.
"Huh? Who – who are you?" he said. "Where am I?"
Katara grabbed his hand and half-led, half-dragged him out of the iceberg onto land while she talked. "I'm Katara, princess of the Southern Water Tribe, and that's where we are – the South Pole."
Once they were on shore, Katara could get a good look at the boy. He was about her age, perhaps a bit younger. He had bright gray eyes, but his head was bald and bore a tattoo of a large blue arrow. Similar tattoos were on his hands. His clothing was orange and yellow, unadorned but with intricately worked fabric.
She frowned. Wait a minute... Those clothes...
"By Tui and La!" Katara cried, stepping back. "You're one of the Air Nomads!"
The boy shrugged. "I guess I am. My name is Aang. I'm from the Southern Air Temple."
Katara's eyes widened. "Wow. I was sure they were all dead. No-one has seen any of them for a hundred years."
Aang gaped, grief-stricken. "Really? How could that have happened? I remember red ships were attacking me, before I fell into the water and made that iceberg—"
"Whoa!" she interrupted. "You made an iceberg? How could you do that if you're an Airbender?"
He fidgeted for a moment under her suspicious gaze, then sighed and sat down. "Well... I... um... see... I'm..."
"Don't tell me," Katara said. "The Avatar."
Aang looked at her in shock. "How did you know?"
She smiled. "It all fits."
She sat down next to him and sketched a rough map of the world with her finger in the snow: Fire Nation to the left, Earth Kingdom to the right, Water Tribes at the poles, and the islands of Air Nomads' temples. Next to it, she drew the characters for Water and Fire, a horizontal line, and the characters Earth and Air beneath that line.
"Long ago," she began, "the four nations – and four elements – lived in harmony. Destructive, fast fire and the large, structured Fire Nation balanced slow, healing water and the small peaceful Water Tribe. Offensive, stubborn earth and the large, militarized Earth Kingdom balanced evasive, playful air and the small, nonindustrial Air Nomads. For thousands of years, they lived together in relative peace.
"But then Air and Earth's balance was lost. The Earth Kingdom was too strong, the Air Nomads too weak. The Earth Kingdom wanted to have the entire world, and they started with the Air Nomads. The Avatar, the only thing that maintained the world's balance, was to be born among them, so they destroyed all four Air Temples to the best of their ability. But the Avatar miraculously survived... inside an iceberg, I suppose." She winked at him, and they both laughed.
"So what happened next?" Aang asked.
"Well, the Fire Nation and Water Tribe had no choice but to band together against the Earth Kingdom. It turned out to be really good for both of us. Water, fire, or both together can solve most problems. The union has benefits besides military ones: The Fire Nation made our tribe a lot more modern and stuff. So we've been at war with the Earth Kingdom for the past hundred years. Legend had it that the Avatar, who could bend air to balance aggressive earth, would return and save us all. That's about it, really."
There were a few moments of silence; then, Aang said, "So... want to go penguin sledding with me?"
Katara grinned. "I'd love to."
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