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|"Tell me, sky bison, are you the last of your breed? Oh, the stories this beast could tell..."|
|— Professor Zei|
|The Last Airbender|
This one-shot was written for Ty's One-shot Competition.
Long ago, the Air Nomads learnt the ancient art of airbending from the great sky bisons. The first ever airbenders, these creatures thrived in the Air Temples but were exterminated along with the Air Nomads in the events of the Hundred Year War.
Everyone referred to Aang as the last airbender. But Appa was the last of his kind too...
The Last Airbender
"Yip, yip!" the Avatar, eyes smiling, hands hanging happily on the reigns, called out.
With a heave of his heavy tail and a quavering spring of his knees, as the years had wearied his hefty body, Appa, the man's animal guide, lifted himself into the air, roaring majestically as he always did when taking off.
Soon they were soaring through the sky. The sky bison, without any backwards tug of the reigns, rose higher, to where he knew they would feel more comfortable.
Just as Toph felt best when underground, Katara when on the southern ice sheets and Zuko on a hot summer's day (and Sokka when in the banquet hall), Aang and Appa felt best when surrounded by nothing but air. Although the Avatar wasn't fully aware of this fact, Appa was, and knew that his friend would delight in him flying higher throughout the atmosphere.
Soon they were cruising above a world of their own. Some people think clouds look like bunnies or sail boats. Appa thinks they look like home.
With another grumbling roar, sending warm, reverberating tremors through the leather saddle, Aang was sent to sleep and Appa was left alone with his thoughts and his thoughts alone.
The first thing that came to mind was Aang, and how much he loved him.
Not only had they accomplished so much together, but they had each accomplished these feats as the last of their kind; as the last airbenders of human and animal alike.
As Aang snored quietly on his back and the great blue sky spread out endlessly before him, the surreal yet familiar, white landscape below him, Appa was far from content.
He was in pure bliss.
With the sun embracing him and his companion with lovely beams of light and the clean, unadulterated smell of pure air filling his lungs, Appa's mind wandered happily to all those that he loved and that loved him.
Aang, Katara, Kya and the new baby they were soon expecting, Sokka and Suki, Toph, Zuko and the elderly Iroh and, how could he forget, Momo.
With each passing day Appa's memories of the flying lemur grew fainter, only to be emboldened in tragic bouts of nostalgia when his mind was allowed to roam. For Momo, being a smaller animal and having a shorter lifespan than the great bison, had passed almost nine months ago.
Although Appa knew Aang like the back of his paw and Aang the same, Appa felt like - no, knew - it was Momo who truly understood what sort of life it was like to be the last of their kind, in a vast sea of others. Appa and Momo, the last of their respective species, were truly alone.
Aang had the pleasure of other humans to interact with, to fall in love with, to start a family with. But Appa, and Momo too, up until his dying moments, had nothing.
The saddest part of Appa's case was that he, unlike the little, sickly lemur, who was forever blissfully ignorant of his forlorn predicament, understood his loneliness, while Aang was completely unaware that he had all that Appa lived for.
It was hard for a creature like Appa to feel jealousy, especially of Aang, his companion for life, lovingly bound to him by some inexplicable force. Yet something like it lingered in Appa's mind.
The more he thought about Aang and his family and the other humans that surrounded him, the more this bitter sensation clawed at Appa's conscience. Adding yet another sting to his sorrows, the sky bison knew that Aang and his friends would do all they could to help him, if only he could communicate his pain to them. And if only there was something they could actually do...
For a while Appa continued flying straight, his eyes glossed over in thought, his body here but his mind somewhere far away.
Then, for an unknown reason, perhaps to spitefully wake Aang from his peaceful slumber or to express his dire sadness to the man, Appa roared once more, yet, like a child choking on its tears, he was cut short.
"What is it buddy?" Aang asked, leaning over and placing a concerned hand on Appa's forehead.
Appa did not respond.
No roar, no grumble. Not even a look up to assure Aang that everything was alright. Instead he just stared down at what, at first glance, he thought was his reflection. Funny though... His reflection had never intrigued him this much before. And, he remembered, his reflections always showed the bottom of his body, not the top like what he was viewing now. Unless...
Suddenly Appa hurtled down to the island, howling desperately, angrily, heartbroken as, surely, his lonely eyes deceived him.
"Appa," Aang yelled, "slow down! We're gonna- "
But he was cut off. Not by another noise but by a sight; one of which neither he nor Appa thought they would ever see in their lifetimes.
Appa grunted breathily in disbelief. He looked up at Aang with wavering pupils, which would be tearing up if he had tear ducts, and roared with an accent so profoundly happy, as though a giant, heavy anchor, once barbed with loneliness and sorrow, was now light as the air he reveled in.
How could he have been so selfish? So selfish to think those thoughts? So selfish to allow jealousy, or something of it, to try its luck with him?
He loved Aang.
He loved Momo.
He loved everyone and everything, for now he was able to love something too. But not just something.
"Appa..." Aang muttered, sliding off the bison's side, staff in one hand, Appa's panting face in the other.
Appa was now able to love a fellow sky bison for, before him, chewing beautifully on the grassy meadow, and above him, frolicking just as he did in the air, were other sky bison.
He was not alone.
No longer could he refer to himself as the last Airbender of his kind.
- Word count = 1000
- The writer always thought, "How did Appa feel about the war and the... HOLY FRICK! He's the only sky bison left!" And you basically see the train of thought
- The story detailed that Katara and Aang were expecting their second child (presumably near the end of the 9 months of her pregnancy) and Momo died almost 9 months ago. The author did this because he thought it would be nice if Momo's spirit was reincarnated into Bumi.
- When Appa lists who he loves, he recounts Iroh - meaning Iroh is still alive when Kya was born and perhaps when Bumi was.
- Although Kataang and Sukka are detailed, Zuko and Mai and Toph's romantic relationship isn't, reflective of how we are in the dark on Toph's love life and whether Zuko and Mai will reconcile.
For the collective works of the author, go here.